A group campaigning against extensions to Auckland's Bledisloe Wharf has told the High Court the plans should have been subject to a public hearing as they were always going to be controversial.
Urban Auckland is arguing the resource consents for the extensions, which prompted protests earlier this year, were granted unlawfully.
Lawyer Matthew Palmer said the council, which owned the port company, had little control over any decision-making around the extensions.
He said the work should have been considered significant enough to require a public hearing, rather than being issued without wider consultation.
"There's not very many aspects in which the council has control, therefore we won't tell the public about it," he said.
"I think of it as the 'keep the public in the dark strategy' to how to make decisions about consents."
He told the High Court that it seemed that the involvement of one of the council's commissioners with someone who would have been a potential submitter was not considered a problem.
He said another commissioner made a decision based on spending only 90 minutes reading over 700 pages of documents, which were then discovered to contain mistakes, and had to be corrected.
"You have 760 pages of mostly single-spaced typing which the records say the commissioner spent 90 minutes reading so that's 8.4 pages a minutes.
"So this does not provide assurance that the Commissioner applied any real focus to the appilcations or made an independent decision," Mr Palmer said.
The case is being heard by Justice Venning in the High Court at Auckland, with submissions by Ports of Auckland and Auckland Council, as well as Urban Auckland.
The hearing is expected to last until Friday.