Auckland legal battles

April 23rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes:

The glass tower lawyers who dine off the battles between Auckland local bodies might soon find themselves short of spare cash for restocking their wine cellars.

As the day of the great forced marriage between the reluctant eight councils looms, the unthinkable is happening. The councils are trying to resolve all outstanding disputes between one another before they plight their troth on November 1.

For however acrimonious the fight has been, the combatants accept how ridiculous it’s going to look in the Environment Court on November 2 if the QC for the has to stand up and tell the judge he’s now acting for both sides in Auckland Regional Council versus Auckland City Council on, for example, wastewater discharge from “party central” on Queens Wharf.

That’s certainly a benefit to have less lawsuits where ratepayers fund both sides. So how many are there? One ? Three? Five?

Last September, in recognition of the revolution to come, the eight chief executives agreed to “accelerate the resolution of appeals between councils”.

At the time there were 287 outstanding appeals and related actions either between councils alone, or involving a third party.

By November the number of disputes had risen to 355, though it rapidly settled back to a figure of 311, where it now stands.

The good news, I guess, is that as of April 6, 35 actions had been settled and another 194 had reached the stage of officer agreement.

355!!!

Some law firms are going to go into receivership.

That left 47 cases where the officers cannot agree – down from a peak of 122 in November – and another 35 where further investigation is required.

Officers are now considering which appeals are too hard to resolve and should be rushed to the Environment Court before November 1.

All heart, the Environment Court has offered to schedule additional appeals to help speed the process.

Of course from the ratepayers’ point of view, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the unresolved issues were just carried over to the new Super City organisation to be resolved in-house. The savings in legal bills would be substantial. Just how big, I haven’t been able to track down, though one insider says the ARC legal bill alone for such cases is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

At least I would say.

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6 Responses to “Auckland legal battles”

  1. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    Yep, at least.

    But there’s more to it than that. There is the cost of delay associated with protracted legal battles and many other ancillary costs. I’d say the real cost is in the millions. The new Auckland will do away with this as it has provision for immediate mediation between local boards and the council on disputes.

    A good article by Rudman. I’d never thought I’d say that!

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  2. MT_Tinman (3,263 comments) says:

    Mr Rudman does sometimes get something correct.

    I’m surprised.

    Was yesterday talking to a representative from a law firm that does much of Jafaville’s work.

    That firm is seriously concerned of consequences if they don’t get the work from the new city.

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  3. wreck1080 (3,972 comments) says:

    The thing is, the councils don’t give a fuck about legal costs. After all, the ratepayer will foot the bill.

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  4. GPT1 (2,123 comments) says:

    355 – sounds extraordinary. I do wonder whether they are all councils appealing each other of if the appeals have been lodged and the councils remain as parties. Whilst the workings (or lack therein) of the Environment Court remain a mystery to most of us I am aware that a number of parties with wider interests (transits, councils etc) tend to remain as parties to pretty much everything that has any chance of affecting them. The whole process (not blaming councils) seems a bit weird and strung out to me but the tree huggers do things their way!

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  5. alex Masterley (1,523 comments) says:

    I thought Rudman’s article was good too.

    He doesn’t extrapolate out the argument to look at the supply of services, inclduing legal to the new super city.
    at present 5 or 6 firms supply legal services to the various local councils.

    That may reduce over time to about 3 as I suspect that the new council will set up a panel of providers that they retain, simialr to the insurance industry.

    That means that there will be fierce competion for panel spots.

    Those who don’t make the panel will suffer methinks.

    I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch the fun!

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  6. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Bet the ARC’s lawyers are going to be unhappy once they are gone. They made an art form of opposing everything the Auckland councils wanted to do.

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