Lakeside appeal tossed out

Court battle: The Lakes Edge and Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa site in February

A prominent Queenstown developer has had its case over “trespassing” rock anchors on its lakeside land dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Lakes Edge Developments, controlled by Chris Meehan’s Winton Partners Holdings, challenged a High Court ruling which found rock anchors were “fixtures” on 3814 square metres of its land, near Queenstown’s Hilton hotel, at Kawarau Falls.

At a hearing in April, Lakes Edge lawyer Jack Hodder QC argued the anchors’ encroachment would impede the company’s proposed development and neighbouring company Kawarau Village Holdings Ltd, now controlled by receivers, was liable for trespass.

But in a decision just released publicly, justices Mark Cooper, Rhys Harrison and the now-retired Tony Randerson said the arguments underpinning the case were essentially the same used in the unsuccessful High Court case.

The judgment said there was “no factual foundation” to Lakes Edge’s submission that the anchors provided no benefit to its land – considering it contributed to the land’s stability and supported its access road.

Consent wasn’t needed to install the anchors, the decision said, and there was no trespass at the time.

The land was in common ownership when the 12 metre-long anchors were drilled in 2008.

Genesis of the stabilisation work dates back to now-failed developer Nigel McKenna’s ambitious plans for the former Kawarau Falls Station site, which included 13 new buildings, five of which were to be hotels.

The anchors were required by a Queenstown council consent. Council records from the time show their location and construction detail.

McKenna’s developments hit financial trouble in 2009 and receivers were appointed.

Meehan’s group of companies bought the land in question, and two other blocks, in 2014 for $10.15 million. Due diligence was part of the sale of the land, which was sold on an “as is, where is” basis.

It was only in March last year that Lakes Edge took legal action.

The Court of Appeal judgment said the anchors are buried deep below the surface, are set in concrete and any attempt to withdraw them might be impossible without destroying them.

“The photographic evidence confirms just how substantial the rock anchors are and the permanence of their installation.”

The anchors supported Alpine Lakes Drive and, if removed, experts say could cause about three metres of “surface failure” on Lakes Edge’s land, along the entire common boundary.

The Court of Appeal judges said if Lakes Edge wants to develop its land “then it will be a matter for negotiation” as to how that might be achieved without compromising the anchors.

Costs were awarded to Kawarau Village Holdings.

Meehan is associated with several Queenstown Lakes developments, including Bridesdale Farm, adjacent to Lake Hayes Estate, and Wanaka’s Northlake.