Farming has been under the microscope this month with three heavyweight Government reports — on water quality, climate change and Mycoplasma bovis — all appearing in just three days.
In an unprecedented move, Judge Laurie Newhook said in his summary that costs are “reserved”, meaning the other parties -- Northland Regional Council and Whangarei District Council -- could claim costs against Federated Farmers. Normally in such cases costs are not awarded; this case looms as an exception.
Judge Newhook says “despite losing a jurisdictional argument in this court on its own appeal and losing its appeal to the High Court and its substantive appeal to the Court of Appeal and its substantive appeal to this court, Federated Farmers has endeavoured to run somewhat similar arguments on the papers before me in the current stage of the Whangarei District Council (WDC) appeal. These things collectively seem quite remarkable.”
Essentially, when Feds lost the Northland case it tried to re-litigate the arguments by joining an appeal by WDC for a minor wording change which the judge agreed to.
Judge Newhook describes the Feds submission in this latest case as “curious to say the least” and that he agrees with the counsel for the Soil and Health that the Federation’s submissions were “rather difficult to follow in logic”.
He says the Feds’ argument that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should only be controlled by central government is wrong because under the Resource Management Act regional councils have the power to control GMOs through their regional policy statements and plans.
The tenor of the judgement suggests that the judge is perplexed or exasperated by the arguments run in this latest case by the federation.
He concludes by saying that the submission by Feds is “largely a re-run of the arguments about jurisdiction previously heard in this court and in the High Court and ruled upon. It is not open to Federated Farmers to run these arguments again especially in view of the binding findings of the High Court and I will not consider that part of the submission further”.
The decision by Judge Newhook to open up the issue of costs is almost unprecedented and suggests his frustration at the nature of their appeal.