Environmental future down to battle of wills

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The future of the Wakatipu Environmental Society (WESI) is down to a test of wills.

An email to WESI, which was forwarded to Mountain Scene by former society frontperson Karen Swaine, throws new light on the group’s unexplained decision to go into recess last month.

The email is from Arrowtown developer Gary Mullings’s family trust – he confirms its authenticity.

Mullings has offered to let cash-strapped WESI off $4000 costs awarded to his trust by the Environment Court after the group lost a bitter planning battle over redevelopment of his Emporium building.

But the developer wants something back – a personal apology from Swaine.

Mullings demands the apology must acknowledge he had the right to “dismantle” and rebuild the Emporium under a 2006 mediation deal with WESI.

Swaine must also apologise for media comments “such as putting a bulldozer through the building”. “My goal is to stop The Emporium saga once and for all and give [WESI] a chance to not wind up,” Mullings told WESI in late May.

But there’s a stalemate.

With WESI in recess and Swaine stepping down, she’s point-blank refusing to apologise – leaving Mullings mulling over legal action to get his money, a move that would probably force WESI into liquidation and perhaps leave the developer looking heavy-handed.

Mullings says another WESI executive rejected his emailed offer.

“I find it incredible they want to put this society on hold and never bother to ask or tell me that – and who’s handling WESI stuff now that Karen Swaine has stepped down?”

Swaine, an occasional Mountain Scene columnist, says: “This latest tactic by [Mullings] is a continuation of the bullying throughout this whole case.”