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Rod Duke could face helipad action

Briscoes boss Rod Duke today lost round one of his High Court beach helipad battle, opponents say. But there is more to come, potentially in the Environment Court as well.

A marine protection lobby group is fighting the multi-millionaire retailer's bid to build a Thunderbirds-style helipad on Sentinel Beach close to the Auckland CBD. Duke says the helipad, with a slide-back roof for when helicopters land, will help him get to out-of-town golf courses more quickly.

Kawau Island Action has teamed up with a local residents’ group. They argue Duke should not have been allowed to start the project - which turns a former beach boathouse into a helipad - without public consultation. Auckland Council only talked to Rod Duke’s close neighbours when granting consent, but didn’t consider the impact on beachgoers and other locals.

In the High Court this morning, Duke’s lawyer Setareh Stienstra argued there were a number of questions about Kawau Island Action that needed to be answered before the judicial review of the resource consent could take place.

Questions included: where does the organisation hold its annual general meeting and who is paying for the proceedings?

But Justice Sally Fitzgerald decided the questions didn’t need answering before the main hearing next week, and no postponement was necessary.

The case will go ahead in the High Court on Oct. 18 when Justice Fitzgerald will rule on whether Kawau Island Action needs to answer the questions.

Auckland Council argued when it granted the resource consents that it didn’t need to seek public submissions on the helipad construction plan because any impact on beachfront properties - three of which are owned by Duke himself - was minimal.

But Kawau Island Action founder Andy Coleman and local residents argue it’s not only close neighbours that will be impacted. Because the helipad is on a popular public beach, the council should have considered the impact on beachgoers.

“What they are doing is environmentally repugnant. A helicopter on a public beach is totally unacceptable,” Coleman told BusinessDesk. 

Kawau Island Action is also planning action in the Environment Court this week to stop all construction work, arguing there have been consenting breaches.

The resource consent allows for “shallow excavations” using “existing piled foundations”. However, the developers have dug out the concrete foundations, removed the original wooden posts holding up the boathouse, and replaced them with large steel beams.

Kawau Island Action wants the Environment Court to issue an interim enforcement order stopping the building work while consenting breaches are investigated.

Australian-born Rod Duke bought Briscoes in the late 1980s and still owns 78 percent. NBR estimates his net worth to be $750 million, including $50 million of residential and commercial property.

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