More court action this week over Rod Duke’s helipad

Opponents of a helipad that Briscoe’s boss Rod Duke is building on an inner city Auckland beach are furious that Auckland Council has given permission for some work on the helipad/boatshed site, despite the High Court quashing resource consents just one month ago.

They have gone to the Environment Court to try to prevent any activity at the site.

In mid-December, Justice Christine Gordon said Auckland Council was wrong to have granted unnotified consents for Duke to turn the boatshed at the bottom of his Herne Bay properties into a helipad.

She ruled the council had to consider the impact on, and opinions of, beachgoers who might find themselves under the helicopter when it took off and landed above their heads.

The High Court decision means the project doesn’t have resource consent and all work on the structure should stop.

Construction is already well-advanced, with the former wooden boathouse now having large steel supporting structures and two levels with concrete floors.

However, since the decision, Duke and his wife Patricia have appointed a new lawyer, Richard Brabant, who asked Auckland Council for permission to carry out “essential work required to make the structure secure and watertight”.

This includes framing up the walls of the front deck, putting in a temporary roof pitch over the front deck, and cladding the roof and window openings.

Last week, the council’s compliance monitoring team made an “in-house” decision saying the work was “reasonable” and allowed it to go ahead.

Marine environment campaigner Andy Coleman, who is spearheading the court action against the helipad project, is angry. He says the council should have declined the Dukes’ request.

Coleman, who heads the Kawau Island Action coastal protection group, argues the council has no remit to allow any unconsented construction work in a coastal marine area, no matter what it is.

“Reason doesn’t come into Resource Management Act - you are either allowed to do it or you are not. This means the council has made a decision outside legal parameters; basically they have just allowed the Dukes to carry on.”

Coleman says the ultimate goal of the objectors, who include members of the Herne Bay Residents Association, is to have the boatshed returned to as close as possible to how it was before the helipad construction started.

But he worries that the further the building work progresses, including the work the council has agreed to, the more the new shape and size of the structure could be considered a fait accompli.

And that could mean a court is less likely to make Duke return the boatshed to its pre-helipad state, Coleman says.

“The Act provides for unconsented work to be restored to the environment it was in before the activity began. That’s what we want.”

A council spokesman confirmed the Dukes had been given permission to make the site secure and watertight.

“Ensuring buildings in a public locality are maintained to a safe and secure state is a priority for council. Any works undertaken on site are however at the owner’s risk due to the resource consent for the building being quashed by the High Court.”

The spokesman said no other construction work would be carried out and the council was monitoring the site closely.

“None of the permitted tasks relate to progressing construction of the previously consented boatshed.”

Coleman says as soon as he heard work would be happening on the site, he applied to the Environment Court for an urgent enforcement order which would stop all construction. Now the Dukes’ lawyers have been given until Thursday to respond.

An Environment Court hearing on resource consent breaches, where the council and Kawau Island Action both happen to be acting against the Dukes, is due later this month.

The National Business Review’s annual Rich List estimates Duke, head of Briscoe Group, to be worth $750 million. His lawyer Richard Brabant did not reply to requests for comment..

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