5 November 2007

Christchurch City, New Civic Building: Council Report

> LAWS179: "Christchurch City, Council offices, and (un)constitutionality" As a result of a LGOIMA request, I have now obtained a copy of the report to Christchurch City Council on the 11th hour decision about its new offices: > CCC: "New Civic Building - Site Selection"

Some information was blanked out, although the parts omitted appear orthodox.

I haven't yet worked through the report and how it measures up against the decision-making obligations under the LG Act 2002 (the financial and governance arrangements are quite complicated). However, a couple of points are readily apparent:
  • Apart from a desire "to meet the intent of the Council that this issue be reported back in this term of Council", there is nothing in the written report that suggests that the matter was urgent such that the decision needed to be made prior to the election.
  • In terms of the assessment of significance, the report accepts that the proposal itself is significant but relies on the previous provision for the project in the LTCCP to avoid further public consultation. In terms of whether the new proposal gave rise to an obligation to reconsult the community because it was materially different from the project in the LTCCP, the critical conclusion is that the "change to 50% ownership of Tuam 2 Ltd by the Council is not significant for the purpose of Section 80". Intuitively, this conclusion seems vulnerable - but I'm seeking more information to see the analysis.

More thoughts once I've worked through the issue.

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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