Only this morning we posted a summary of the issues covered in the first two days of the SkyPath appeal hearing in the Environment Court. Who knew day three would be done and dusted within an hour??
The session began at 10am with the Reply Submission on behalf of the applicant (the SkyPath team), delivered by Daniel Minhinnick. The submission reiterated that the project is a worthy one, deserving of consent, and contains adequate provision for mitigating any adverse effects.
The applicant accepted that, as a fallback, conditions could indeed be added to allow for monitoring and review of unexpected adverse effects at the Northcote end. (On that note, they maintained that the conditions suggested by the Northcote Point Heritage Protection Society – early closing, a cap on numbers – were unreasonable and unjustified.)
Then the Judge and Commissioners excused themselves for a brief discussion… and returned to inform the courtroom that a consent will be issued, subject to refining the conditions over the coming weeks (the “conditions” being those proposed by the SkyPath team and supported by Auckland Council).
[A pause in the sober reporting for a quick editorial happy dance on behalf of everyone who’s worked so hard and looked forward to this for so long! In particular, bravo to Bevan Woodward for his vision and persistence, and to Morrison & Co’s PIP Fund for supporting the vision, and to the legal team for their stellar work.]
We understand it’s quite rare for the court to issue a verbal decision like this. In the judge’s words, he considered it “fair to tell the parties: don’t go out of the room with the expectation that consent will be refused. There’s going to be a consent.”
Judge Newhook took particular care to note that the parties had drawn closer together across the course of the hearing, and indeed before it. He assured the residents that the court had “well and truly heard [their] concerns and scrutinised their evidence”, and added that he had read their submissions multiple times in order to understand their perspective. “There will be change, there can be no doubt about that, but it’s a question of how that change will be controlled and mitigated.”
It was all over in an hour or less. There is much more detail to come in due course – detail on the conditions, and legal analysis – which will likely take some weeks. Perhaps we can look forward to the final judgement before Christmas? Or even in time for Lightpath’s first birthday on 3 December?
In any case, for now, the result is clear: the consent stands. SkyPath can be built. This is great news.