Untrained “bush lawyers” are writing Queenstown Lakes District Council bylaws.
The surprise admission comes from the top – Hamish Dobbie, boss of QLDC regulator Lakes Environmental.
Dobbie was quizzed by Mountain Scene over botched drafting of the controversial Control of Activities and Obstructions in Public Places Bylaw 2010, which has been adopted by QLDC for public consultation.
In Mountain Scene coverage in January, two lawyers – real ones – sounded Bill of Rights warnings about the harsh new law to control street vending, busking, public demonstrations and rallies, and leaflet distribution.
“I can tell you it was written here,” Dobbie says.
Do you have a qualified lawyer on staff?
“We have got a qualified lawyer but I doubt if it was done by a lawyer.”
Have your lay people written other bylaws in-house? “You’d have to ask council that.”
But is this normal? “My understanding is that that’s generally the way they’re done.”
Did QLDC lawyers Mactodd check your bush lawyer’s wording before the bylaw went to councillors for formal
approval in December?
“Not that I’m aware of, no. If we do any bylaws here in the future, we will always ensure they go to Mactodd in the very early stages to get that tick-off first.”
Was there a slip-up this time? “It may well have been a slip-up, yes.”
When it comes into effect, the bylaw will be enforced by police and LE wardens. The maximum fine is $20,000.
After the public criticism, lawyers Mactodd were finally roped in and they didn’t pull punches.
A long letter to LE pointed out “defective drafting” and “potential inconsistencies” between the bylaw, Bill of Rights and Local Government Act.
One drafting error, Mactodd alleged, could have breached the LGA and another would have left permit holders and business owners “in a state of uncertainty as to their respective rights”.
Mactodd also gave LE “a number of other changes … to remove uncertainty, correct anomalies or deal with omissions”.
The bylaw now goes back to QLDC for final adoption.