Case of gold-plated fence

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Developer Broomfield takes on QLDC in $330,000 boundary battle.

A three-year battle over what’s billed “New Zealand’s most expensive farm boundary fence” is still being dragged out in two different court proceedings.

The legal ping-pong is between Queenstown Lakes District Council and Mount Field Ltd, a company which owns Mt Dewar Station – the high-country run between Coronet Peak and Skippers Canyon, most of which is classified “outstanding natural land­scape”.

Mount Field’s managing director is prominent Queenstown developer David Broomfield, who bought into Mt Dewar 18 years ago.

Local planning consultant Carey Vivian, who acts for Mount Field, told Farmers Weekly the 3500-metre boundary fence cost $160,000 to build – but legal and consulting fees have so far cost his client another $170,000.

QLDC has probably spent a similar amount, Vivian claims.

The origins of the battle go back to a 2006 complaint to QLDC by the NZ His­­­­-toric Places Trust, alleging 1900m of the fence breached council earthworks rules – because the fence is built on a three-metre-wide bull-dozed “bench”.

QLDC went to the Environment Court, which found the fence itself was permissible but the bulldozed “bench” was not and should have had resource consent.

In its enforcement order application, QLDC asked the Environment Court to make the farm company restore the land to original contours, remove deposited fill and revegetate exposed earth.

Mount Field appealed to the High Court, which found the farm company could carry out all earthworks reasonably necessary to construct the fence – but it threw the legal baton back to the Environment Court to determine whether the “bench” was in fact necessary.

But that determination has stalled, after an adjournment two weeks ago by Judge Jon Jackson.

He’s waiting for the results of a “declaration hearing” presided over by fellow Environment Court Judge Brian Dwyer, relating to what earthworks are necessary to build the fenceline – that’s scheduled for May 11 in Queenstown.

The case is big news in farming, with Farmers Weekly covering it recently and coining the “most expensive fence” moniker.

The publication quotes planner Vivian saying the High Court decision set an important legal precedent, with many findings applicable to farm activities other than fencing.

Farm co-owner Broomfield tells Farmers Weekly the case is a disgrace.

“It is clearly unjust.”

Broomfield, a long-time critic of the resource consent process and QLDC’s application of it, also complained it took the farm company three years and a trip to the Environment Court for permission to build a farm manager’s house – which is out of sight – on Mt Dewar.