4 Dec 2018

Hawke's Bay feedlot battle: Strategist hit with legal costs

4:44 pm on 4 December 2018

Political strategist Simon Lusk is threatening to take more court action against a regional council after receiving a $7900 bill to cover its legal costs.

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Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The Havelock North resident filed a case against the Hawke's Bay Regional Council in the Environment Court in August, using evidence from a Waimarama farm which he said used feedlots that were damaging soils and groundwater.

He withdrew the case after the farm changed hands and stopped using the intensive farming practice.

The council is now asking him to pay its legal costs, but he is refusing.

"I thought they're dreaming," Mr Lusk said.

"They are still being negligent and the case could still be brought," he said.

If the council did not withdraw its request he would file another case using evidence from another feedlot in the region, Mr Lusk said.

But Hawke's Bay Regional Council said ratepayers should not have to foot the bill after Mr Lusk changed his mind

"We had to spend money preparing the case to go to court and then Mr Lusk withdrew it before it was heard by a judge," council regulation manager Liz Lambert said.

"We feel that we owe it to ratepayers to try and at least recoup the external costs that have been incurred."

Feedlots are an intensive farming practice where animals are kept in confined spaces and fed over a period of time.

In his case, Mr Lusk argued some farmers used a loophole in the rules to get around the need for a resource consent by moving stock every 14 days.

This was one day less than the 15 day in 30 days rule that the council used to define a feedlot.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council said farmers who put stock in a confined space for 14 days in 30 were not breaking any rules.

Mr Lusk said the council originally asked him to repay $15,000 in costs but that was later reduced to $7900.

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