344 High Court [1995]

Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General [1995] 3 NZLR 344

High Court Wellington 20 June 1995 Doogue J

Resource management-Conservation area-Stewardship area-Whether Minister of Conservation required to be satisfied that land no longer required for conservation purposes before disposing of it-Whether social and economic factors relevant considerations when making decision-Whether Minister required to have regard to the West Coast Accord before making a decision-Whether plaintiff had a legitimate expectation that Minister would have regard to West Coast Accord-Whether s 40 of Public Works Act 1981 applied to disposal of land- Conservation Act 1987, ss 2(1), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16(1), 26 and 62-Public Works Act 1981, ss 2, 40, 41 and 42.

Buller Electricity Ltd alleged that the Minister of Conservation had made a flawed decision that certain land in the Buller region was not available for a proposed Ngakawau hydroelectric scheme. Four questions of law were by agreement of the parties submitted to the High Court prior to the trial of the substantive proceeding. They arose out of the decision of the Minister of 5 August 1993 in which he stated that before disposing of the land he must be satisfied that it was no longer required for conservation purposes; and that he was not required by any legislation to facilitate hydroelectric development. He added that social and economic factors were not relevant considerations for him under the Conservation Act but that, notwithstanding those comments, should he decide that the land was no longer needed for conservation purposes and decide to dispose of it, he was then required to hand the land over to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for disposal.

The questions posed for the Court were:

"(1) Before disposing of land held as a conservation or stewardship area under the Conservation Act 1987 ('the Act') must the Minister of Conservation ('the Minister') be satisfied that it is no longer required for conservation purposes?
(2) Under the Act are social and economic factors relevant considerations when deciding whether or not to dispose of land held as a conservation or stewardship area?
(3) In deciding whether or not to dispose of the land sought by the plaintiff for the proposed Ngakawau hydroelectric scheme, was the Minister required to have regard to, and/or would the plaintiff have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to, the West Coast Accord?
(4) Does section 40 of the Public Works Act 1981 apply to the disposal of the land sought by the piaintiff?"

The Court considered the first two questions together and in respect of those and the other two questions firstly gave consideration to relevant provisions of the Act, namely s 2(1) (the definition section, including in particular the definitions of "conservation", "conservation area", "historic resource", "Maori land", "natural resources", "preservation", "protection" and "stewardship area"); s 3 (Act binding on Crown); s 4 (giving effect to principles of the Treaty of Waitangi); s 5


3 NZLR Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General 345

(establishment of Department of Conservation); and s 6 (functions of the department). The Court also referred to s 7, in Part III of the Act, providing for the appropriate Minister or Ministers to declare that land or foreshore is held for conservation purposes; that the Minister might by agreement acquire any interest in land for those purposes; that nothing previously mentioned applied in respect of land that is Crown forest land; and that for the purposes of declaring land to be held for conservation purposes, the appropriate Minister was the Minister of Forestry.

Reference is also made to s 15 (enabling the creation of easements over lands held for conservation purposes); s 16(1) (that notwithstanding anything in the State-Owned 10 Enterprises Act 1986, but subject to the Public Works Act 1981, no conservation area shall be disposed of except in accordance with the Conservation Act); s 25 (providing that every stewardship area should be so managed so that its natural and historic resources were protected); s 26 (providing that the Minister might dispose of any stewardship area that was not foreshore or any interest in any stewardship 15 area that was not foreshore subject to certain conditions); and s 62 (providing that certain lands should, until declared under s 7 to be held for conservation purposes, be deemed to be held under the Act for conservation purposes; but neither it nor any interest in it should be disposed of).

The long title and certain of the sections referred to, and certain of the definitions, emphasise that conservation was the principal object of the Act.

The plaintiff submitted that it was open to the Minister, when there were no specific criteria with the disposal of land under s 26, to consider factors other than conservation purposes and, in particular, social and economic factors.

The defendant argued that the true intent and meaning of the empowering Act necessarily limited the Minister's powers to a consideration of whether or not land was required for conservation purposes before a decision was made to dispose of part of it under s 26; and that to take any other consideration into account would be an irrelevant and improper purpose and that, in particular, economic or social factors were not relevant for the purpose of the Act.

The West Coast Accord, referred to in question (3), was an agreement following a recommendation of a cabinet policy committee at a meeting on 4 November 1986 adopted, so it was argued by the defendant, in the context of the legislation then existing and that the Conservation Act was consequent on it. The defendant also argued that there were certain differences between what was then proposed and 35 what was currently proposed. The plaintiff's submission was that at the present time it was only concerned with advancing stage I of the scheme of 400 megawatts.

As to the fourth question, the Court considered the definition of "Government work" in s 2 of the Public Works Act 1981 and the provisions of s 40 relating to land which was no longer required for the public work in respect of which it had 40 been held, was not required for any other public work, was not required for any exchange and should be disposed of.

Section 42 of the Public Works Act deals with the disposal of land not required for public work which does not have to be dealt with under s 40 and s 41. The p!aintiff submitted that in the present case the land fell within s 42 and could be disposed of under s 42, assuming that it was to be treated at all as a public work. The plaintiff submitted that s 40 of the Public Works Act did not apply to the land in question.

Held: 1) In reply to questions (1) and (2):

(a) When the Act was looked at as a whole, there was no basis upon which the Minister could sell the land or otherwise dispose of it unless he was satisfied that it was no longer required for conservation purposes. He could not properly give consideration to social and economic or other factors (see p 352 line 20).


346 High Court [1995]

(b) The appropriate answers were: (in respect of question (1)) "Yes, the Minister must be satisfied that the land is no longer required for conservation purposes before he could dispose of it under either ss 16 or 26 of the Act, assuming the land is classified as a conservation or stewardship area"; and (in respect of question (2)) "No in that social and economIc factors are irrelevant considerations when deciding whether or not to dispose of land held as a conservation or stewardship area" (see p 353 line 5), Spectrum Resources Ltd v Minister of Conservation [1989] 3 NZLR 351 distinguished.

2) As to question (3), there was no basis upon which the Court could take the view that the Minister was obligated to look at documents outside the legislation for determining the application of the legislation when it was clear in its terms; and the plaintiff could not have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to the West Coast Accord in considering whether to dispose of the land under the Act or not as it would not have been a relevant consideration for the Minister in making his determination under the Act (see p 354 line 18, p 354 line 30).

3) As to question (4), it was clear that the land in question came within s 40(1) of the Public Works Act 1981 in that it was plainly land held for the purposes of the Act and thus came within the definition of "Government work"; and that it could only be disposed of by the Minister if it was no longer required for conservation purposes. It came within the clear language of s 40(1) of the Public Works Act 1981 (see p 356 line 19, P 356 line 41).

Questions answered accordingly.

Other cases mentioned in judgement

Auckland City Council v Taubmans (New Zealand) Ltd [1993] 3 NZLR 361.

Birds Galore Ltd v Attorney-General (High Court, Auckland, CP 1161/86, 23 June 1988, Barker J).

Pretrial question of law

This was an application for a pretrial ruling on questions relating to factors to be taken into account on the making of a decision by the Minister of Conservation relating to the use of conservation land for other purposes.

P J Radich and Josephine Johnston for the plaintiff.

M T Parker and Camilla Owen for the defendant.

DOOGUE J. The plaintiff in this proceeding alleges that the Minister of Conservation made a flawed decision that certain land in the Buller region is not available for a proposed Ngakawau hydroelectric scheme.

The parties have agreed that certain questions of law should be answered prior to the trial of the substantive proceeding. Those questions arise out of the deCISIon of the Minister of 5 August 1993. That decision included the following statements:

"Before disposing of the land I must be satisfied that it is no longer require4 for conservation purposes."

"Furthermore I am not required by any legislation to facilitate hydro-electric development."

"Social and economic factors are not relevant considerations for me under the Conservation Act."

"Notwithstanding the above comments, should I decide that the land is longer needed for conservation purposes and I decide to dispose of it I am then...


3 NZLR Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General (Doogue J) 347

...required to hand the land over to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for disposal."

Public Works Act 1981:

"All land held under the Conservation Act and the Acts in its First Schedule are public works under the Public Works Act. Before disposing of the land the Commissioner of Crown Lands must comply with section 40 of the Public Works Act which requires him to consider whether the land is required for another public work or, if it is not, to offer the land back to the original owners. It would only be if the original owners did not wish to acquire the land could it be offered for public disposal."

The questions posed for the Court are as follows:

"(1) Before disposing of land held as a conservation or stewardship area under the Conservation Act 1987 ('the Act') must the Minister of Conservation ('the Minister') be satisfied that it is no longer required for conservation purposes?
(2) Under the Act are social and economic factors relevant considerations when deciding whether or not to dispose of land held as a conservation or stewardship area?
(3) In deciding whether or not to dispose of the land sought by the plaintiff for the proposed Ngakawau hydroelectric scheme, was the Minister required to have regard to, and/or would the plaintiff have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to, the West Coast Accord?
(4) Does section 40 of the Public Works Act 1981 apply to the disposal of the land sought by the plaintiff?"

The first, second and fourth of those questions give rise to matters of statutory interpretation of general importance. The third question may have a wider application but it would be limited to parties who may claim some interest pursuant to or in reliance on the West Coast Accord.

As the questions are basically legal questions and it can only be on that basis that they can be disposed of prior to trial, I do not intend to traverse the facts except insofar as they are essential to an understanding of the questions. I will deal with the first two questions together as the submissions in respect of them were dealt with together. For a consideration of these questions, and indeed the questions generally, it is necessary to give consideration to the relevant provisions of the Act. To enable tbe understanding of those provisions with reference to the present case, it is necessary to preface them with the statement that the land in question in the present case is deemed to be held for conservation purposes under the provisions of s 62 of the Act and, as a consequence, by virtue of the definition of "Stewardship area", is deemed to be such an area.

The parties are agreed that the issue of whether the Minister could dispose of the land requires a consideration of s 26 of the Act in the context of the Act generally.

The relevant provisions of the Act are as follows.

Relevant provisions of the Act

Long title:

An Act to promote the conservation of New Zealand's natural and historic resources, and for that purpose to establish a Department of Conservation

Section 2(1):

2. Interpretation - (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-


348 High Court [1995]

"Conservation" means the preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for their appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations:

"Conservation area" means any land or foreshore that is- (a) Land or foreshore for the time being held under this Act for conservation purposes; or (b) Land in respect of which an interest is held under this Act for conservation purposes:

"Historic resource" means a historic place within the meaning of the Historic Places Act 1980; and includes any interest in a historic resource:

"Maori land" has the same meaning as in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993:

"Natural resources" means (a) Plants and animals of all kinds; and (b) The air, water, and soil in or on which any plant or animal lives or may live; and (c) Landscape and landform; and (d) Geological features; and (e) Systems of interacting living organisms, and their environment;and includes any interest in a natural resource:

"Preservation", in relation to a resource, means the maintenance, so far as is practicable, of its intrinsic values:

"Protection", in relation to a resource, means its maintenance, so far as is practicable, in its current state; but includes(a) Its restoration to some former state; and (b) Its augmentation, enhancement, or expansion:

"Stewardship area" means a conservation area that is not (a) A marginal strip; or (b) A watercourse area; or (c) Land held under this Act for one or more of the purposes described in section 18(1) of this Act; or (d) Land in respect of which an interest is held under this Act for one or more of the purposes described in section 18(1) of this Act.

Section 3:

3. Act to bind the Crown - This Act binds the Crown.

Section 4:

4. Act to give effect to Treaty ofWaitangi- This Act shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Section 5:

5. Department of Conservation - There is hereby established a department of State to be known as the Department of Conservation, which shall be under the control of the Minister.

Section 6:

6. Functions of the Department-The functions of the Department are to..


Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General (Doogue J) 349

..administer this Act and the enactments specified in the First Schedule to this Act, and, subject to this Act and those enactments and to the directions (if any) of the Minister,(a) To manage for conservation purposes, all other natural and historic resources, for the time being held under this Act, ....

(b) To advocate the conservation of natural and historic resources generally:
(c) To promote the benefits to present and future generations of (i) The conservation of natural and historic resources generally and the natural and historic resources of New Zealand in particular;...
(e) To the extent that the use of any natural or historic resource for recreation or tourism is not inconsistent with its conservation, to foster the use of natural and historic resources for recreation, and to allow their use for tourism:
(f) To advise the Minister on matters relating to any of those functions or to conservation generally:

Part IIB makes certain provisions for the guardians of certain of the southern lakes, acknowledging that the guardians can make recommendations in respect of the Manapouri-Te Anau hydroelectric scheme and matters other than purely conservation matters.

Section 7, in Part III of the Act, provides:

7. Land may be acquired and held for conservation purposes-

(1) The Minister, and the Minister responsible for an agency or department of State that has control of any land or foreshore, may jointly, by notice in the Gazette describing it, declare that the land or foreshore is held for conservation purposes; and, subject to this Act, it shall thereafter be so held.
(2) The Minister may, by agreement, acquire any interest in land for conservation purposes; and, subject to this Act, it shall thereafter be held for those purposes.
(3) Nothing in subsections (I) and (2) of this section applies in respect of land that is Crown forest land within the meaning of section 2 of the Crown Forest Assets Act 1989.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, the Minister of Forestry shall be deemed to be the Minister responsible for a department of State that has control of State forest land that is not Crown forest land within the meaning of section 2 of the Crown Forest Assets Act 1989.

It should be noted that in this part of the Act s 14 makes provision for conditions on the issuing of leases and licences in respect of conservation areas and provides also for the price in respect of any disposition of an interest in a stewardship area to be the market price. There are limitations on the issue of leases and licences unless there is a conservation management strategy or plan for the particular area and the lease or licence is in conformity with and authorised by the particular strategy or plan.

Section 15 enables the creation of easements over lands held for conservation purposes.

Section 16(1):

(1) Notwithstanding anything in the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986 but subject to the Public Works Act 1981, no conservation area or interest in a conservation area shall be disposed of except in accordance with this Act.


350 High Court [1995]

Part IV of the Act enables the Minister to provide for additional specific protection or preservation in respect of cenain areas of conservation land by givinu them a classification provided for in the sections within that part of the Act.

Section 25:

25. Management of stewardship areas - Every stewardship area shall so be managed that its natural and historical resources are protected.

Section 26:

26. Disposal of stewardship areas -

(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) of this section, the Minister may dispose of any stewardship area that is not foreshore or any interest in any stewardship area that is not foreshore.
(2) The Minister shall not dispose of any land or any interest in any land adjacent to- 1$ (a) Any conservation area that is not a stewardship area; or (b) Land administered by the Department under some enactment other than this Act,unless satisfied that its retention and continued management as a stewardship 20 area would not materially enhance the conservation or recreational values of the adjacent conservation area or land or, in the case of any marginal strip, of the adjacent water, or public access to it.
(3) The: Minister shall not dispose of any land or any interest in land without first giving notice of intention to do so; and section 49 of this Act shall apply 25 accordingly.
(4) Upon being disposed of under this section, the land or interest in land shall cease to be held for conservation purposes.
(5) As soon as is practicable after disposing of any land or interest in land, the Minister shall publish in the Gazette a notice- 30 (a) Describing the area concerned; and (b) Specifying the interest and the revenue (or, where the interest was disposed of by way of exchange or part exchange, the consideration) received for it.
(6) Any disposal under this section may be effected by transfer under the Land Transfer Act 1952.
(7) A District Land Registrar shall accept any such transfer as conclusive evidence that the land or interest concerned is no longer required for conservation purposes.

Section 62, in Part VIII of the Act, provides:

62. Certain land to be managed as if it is stewardship area - (1) Any land or foreshore that,

(a) Immediately before the commencement of this Act was State forest land or Crown land; and
(b) Was not then a forest sanctuary, forest park, ecological area, or wilderness area; and
(c) Is land or foreshore that the Minister, and the Minister responsible for a department or agency of State that then had control of it, have agreed should be held for conservation purposes; and
(d) Is identified for the purposes of this section on plans lodged in the office of the Chief Surveyor for the land district in which the land or foreshore is situated (being plans certified as correct for the purposes of this section by that Chief Surveyor),-..


3 NZLR Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General (Doogue J) 351

..shall, until it is declared under section 7(1) of this Act to be held for conservation purposes, be deemed to be held under this Act for conservation purposes; but neither it nor any interest in it shall be disposed of.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section restricts or prevents the granting under this Act of a lease, licence, or easement over any land.

There are other provisions to which reference has been made in argument by counsel. I have not overlooked such sections, such as those, for instance, dealing with marginal strips, but the provisions already set out are those which contain the provisions of the Act dealing with areas deemed to be held for conservation purposes and the disposal ofland within such areas and the sections or provisions which would have to determine the Minister's approach to the exercise of his powers.

It will be noted from the provisions of s 62 that, in the event of the Minister seeking to deal with the land other than for conservation purposes, it is necessary for it to be declared under s 7(1) of the Act to be held for conservation purposes. If the land is then brought within s 7(1) of the Act, it can be disposed of in terms of ss 16(1) and 26 of the Act. Sections 26(2) and (3) provide limitations on disposal which do not apply to the facts of the present case. Section 26(4) provides that after land is disposed of under the section it has ceased to be held for conservation purposes.

Section 26(7) notes that if there has been a transfer of any such land the District Land Registrar is to accept it as conclusive evidence that the land or interest concerned is no longer required for conservation purposes.

It is further to be noted that under s 25 of the Act every stewardship area is to be managed so that its natural and historic resources are protected. The long title to the Act emphasises that conservation is the principal objective of the Act. The definitions of "conservation", "conservation area", "preservation" and "protection" all underline that conservation is the objective of the statute, as do the functions of the department itself under s 6 of the Act.

Questions (1) and (2)

"(1) Before disposing of land held as a conservation or stewardship area under the Conservation Act 1987 ('the Act') must the Minister of Conservation ('the Minister') be satisfied that it is no longer required for conservation purposes?
(2) Under the Act are social and economic factors relevant considerations when deciding whether or not to dispose of land held as a conservation or stewardship area?"

The argument between the parties is whether or not the Minister is entitled to consider purposes other than conservation purposes before reaching a decision to bring land which is held under s 62 within s 7 to enable its disposal under S 26.

For the plaintiff it is submitted that it is open to the Minister, when there are no specific criteria dealing with the disposal of land under s 26, to consider factors other than conservation purposes and, in particular, social and economic factors. Whilst it is accepted for the plaintiff that the proper approach is to ascertain the objects of the Act from the whole of its provisions, it is submitted that, when permitted purposes are left unspecified or are not exhaustively specified, as is said to be the case here, the Court can look at the wider considerations in determining whether the Minister's powers are limited in the way in which the plaintiff says the defendant seeks to limit them.

The defendant submits that the true intent and meaning of the empowering Act necessarily limit the Minister's powers to a consideration of whether or not land is required for conservation purposes before a decision is made to dispose of part of it..


352 High Court [1995]

..under s 26. For the defendant it is submitted that to take any other consideration into account would be an irrelevant and improper purpose and that economic or social factors in particular are not relevant for the purpose of the Act.

The plaintiff has called in aid decisions of this Court in other cases: Spectrum Resources Ltd v Minister of Conservation [1989] 3 NZLR 351 and Birds Galore Ltd v S Attorney-General (High Court, Auckland, CP 1161/86, 23 June 1988, Barker J). I do not find either of those cases of any assistance whatever. The first case involved the Mining Act 1971, where the Minister had failed to give primacy to that Act as the Minister was bound to do but had purported to act under the Act. The second case involved the Wildlife Act 1953, where the second defendant had failed to give primacy to that Act as was required in purported reliance upon the Act.

In the present case there is no other Act of relevance. The issue is solely one of the proper approach of the Minister to exercising his powers of disposal under s 26. The issue is whether he is entitled, in the exercise of his discretion, to come to a conclusion that land should be disposed of for reasons other than dealing with purposes other than conservation purposes. It is accepted that the land in the present case was properly conservation land. It is not suggested that it did not have conservation values and could have been disposed of by the Minister regardless of the conservation standing of the land.

When the Act is looked at as a whole, there is no basis upon which the Minister could sell the land or otherwise dispose of it unless he was satisfied that it was no longer required for conservation purposes. The Minister could not properly give consideration to social and economic or other factors. I reach those conclusions for the following reasons.

First, the Minister is obliged under s 25 of the Act to manage a stewardship area so that its natural and historic resources are protected. If he sought to dispose of land which had natural or historic resources worthy of protection, he would be in breach of the mandatory provision which applies to stewardship areas of which, it is acknowledged, this land would have formed part.

Equally, when the Act is looked at as a whole in respect of its long title, the definitions to which reference has been given above, the provisions of s 7(1) of the Act and the lesser provisions in s 6 of the Act combined with the other provisions of the Act to which reference has been made, it is apparent that the objective of the Act is to ensure that land which has been reserved for conservation purposes should be so reserved unless there is a good and proper basis for uplifting the protection which has been placed upon the land. There are no doubt cases where that would arise where land, for example, has been acquired as part of a stewardship area which in fact has no natural or historic resources for protection: for example, where to obtain an area desired for protection a larger area has had to be obtained. Other examples can readily be thought of, as, for instance, where land long held as a conservation area may have within it areas that do not require or deserve protection in termS of the Act.

Further, the very provisions of s 26(7); providing that a transfer, at least for the purposes of the District Land Registrar, shall be conclusive evidence that the land or interest concerned is no longer required for conservation purposes; underline the fact that the transfer is for the purpose of indicating that land is no longer required for conservation purposes. If land was genuinely required for conservation purposes, then, notwithstanding that it could have other uses or benefits for the community at large, how could the Minister act in a way giving rise to such a conclusion?

If the Minister was required to take into account in reaching a determination social or economic or other aspects which may be relevant to the land, he would necessarily be considering purposes other than conservation purposes where the context of the Act which he is obliged to uphold it is plainly the conservation purposes which are the purposes which he is required to uphold and protect. It is not for him in terms of this statute to consider other interests. It may well be that in certain..


3 NZLR Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General (Doogue J) 353

cases other interests would be seen as having greater priority than the conservation interests reflected in the classification of the land under the Act. In that event, as in analogous cases which have arisen in the past, no doubt consideration would be given to appropriate legislation to take the land outside the Act.

It is unnecessary, given the decision reached, for me to further consider the first two questions or the submissions made to me on behalf of the parties. The appropriate answers to the first two questions are:

"Yes, the Minister must be satisfied that the land is no longer required for conservation purposes before he could dispose of it under either ss 16 or 26 of the Act, assuming the land is classified as a conservation or stewardship area;" and

"No, in respect of question (2), in that social and economic factors are irrelevant considerations when deciding whether or not to dispose of land held as a conservation or stewardship area."

Question (3)

"(3) In deciding whether or not to dispose of the land sought by the plaintiff for the proposed Ngakawau hydroelectric scheme, was the Minister required to have regard to, and/or would the plaintiff have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to, the West Coast Accord?"

Question (3) gives rise to other considerations. It is necessary to note briefly that the West Coast Accord is said to be a combination of certain documents which are not totally agreed by the parties. It is accepted, however, that the principal document is an agreement dated 6 November 1986 between a variety of parties and the Crown, acting by and through the Minister for the Environment, which in general terms gave effect to what is known as the Blakely report, the final report of the West Coast Forests Working Party intituled "West Coast Forests Integrating Conservation & Development". Within that report there is a provision in para 8.2:

"Hydro potential exists in the Ngakawau and Ahaura Gorge Ecological Area proposals but there is [sic] no immediate plans to develop these resources. The appropriate strategy to deal with this recource [sic] conflict would be to evaluate any development proposal at the time it is formulated. If the economic benefit of the development were then seen to outweigh the values seen for reservation, the statutory procedures for revoking all or part of the reserve could be invoked."

The report contained a recommendation in para 10:

"(g) that it is noted that prospecting and mining and investigation of other resources is permitted within all categories of reserve proposal with the consent of the responsible Minister, and that where an economic project is identified, the reservation or part of it can be revoked if the economic values are considered to outweigh the reservation values."

The agreement followed a recommendation of a cabinet policy committee at a meeting of 4 November 1986 which for present purposes accepted the recommendations in the report.

For the defendant it is said that the report was made in the context of the legislation then existing and that the Act, which was passed on 31 March 1987 and came into force on 1 April 1987, was consequent to it. It is also said for the defendant that there were certain differences between what was the then proposal in respect of a hydroelectric scheme drawing water from the Ngakawau and Orikaka rivers and the present. The scheme then proposed was for 93 megawatts within the area covered by the West Coast Accord, whereas the plaintiff's scheme was for a 700 megawatt scheme, part of which was outside the coverage of the West Coast Accord.


354 High Court [1995]

I have to note, however, that the plaintiff's submission is that at the present time it is only concerned with advancing stage I of the scheme of 400 megawatts. It is unclear to me whether or not the area involved in stage I of the scheme goes beyond the area covered by the West Coast Accord or not.

Secondly. it is noted for the defendant that, whilst the Blakely report referred to revocation of reserve status, the plaintiff's proposal requires more than recovation of reserve status by transfer of the land out of Crown ownership, and it is said that even the plaintiff accepts that that can only be done in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The question is in two parts. The first part is whether the Minister was required to have regard to the West Coast Accord in deciding whether or not to dispose of the land. It is accepted that there was no contractual obligation upon the Minister to have regard to the accord. It is said, however, that the statements in the accord endorsed by government were made for the benefit of those who might identify economic projects on reserved land and was a clear indication to such persons that if they could demonstrate economic values outweighed reservation values the reservation could be revoked.

With all respect to the submissions for the plaintiff, I have already held that the Minister under the Act is required to give consideration solely to conservation purposes and not to purposes to which the land could be put upon its disposal. He is not required to have regard to matters such as the West Coast Accord or any other considerations which might be regarded by some party with an interest in the land as of possible relevance. I would note in particular that if the legislature had intended that the Act should be read subject to the West Coast Accord it would have been very simple for the legislature to have so provided. The legislature did not so provide, either in the Act itself or in the various amendment Acts which have been passed at subsequent dates. There is no basis upon which the Court could take the view that the Minister is obligated to look at documents outside the legislation for determining the application of the legislation when it is clear in its terms.

The second part of the question is whether the plaintiff would have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to the West Coast Accord. I can only give a limited answer to that question. Much of the argument before me would turn upon the facts of the case. Some but not all of those facts are agreed. I do not intend to draw inferences or make assumptions which could be wrong in fact when the evidence was fully heard and considered. Nor do I intend to embark upon any consideration of the plaintiff's possible legitimate expectations in respect of the Minister viewed generally. The only limited answer that I intend to give to the question is that the plaintiff could not have legitimately expected the Minister to have regard to the West Coast Accord in considering whether to dispose of the land under the Act or not as it would not have been a relevant consideration for the Minister in making his determination under the Act.

Question (4)

"(4) Does section 40 of the Public Works Act 1981 apply to the disposal of the land sought by the plaintiff?"

This question involves a consideration of certain ofthe provisions of the ~ublic Works Act 1981 when read in conjunction with the Act. In particular it requires a consideration of the definition of "Government work" under s 2 of the Public Works Act, it being accepted that, if the deemed stewardship area with which this case is concerned comes within the definition of a government work, it is a public work for the purposes of the Public Works Act. It also requires consideration in particular of s 40 of that Act.


Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General (Doogue J) 355

Section 2:

"Government work" means. . . and includes land held or to be acquired for the purposes of the Conservation Act 1987 or any of the Acts specified in the First Schedule to that Act. . . even where the purpose of holding or acquiring the land is to ensure that it remains in an undeveloped state.

Section 40:

40. Disposal to former owner ofland not required for public work- (1) Where any land held under this or any other Act or in any other manner for any public work

(a) Is no longer required for that public work; and
(b) Is not required for any other public work; and
(c) Is not required for any exchange under section 105 of this Actthe chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information or local authority, as the case may be, shall endeavour to sell the land in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, if that subsection is applicable to that land.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (4) of this section, the chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information or local authority, unless
(a) He or it considers that it would be impracticable, unreasonable, or unfair to do so; or
(b) There has been a significant change in the character of the land for the purposes of, or in connection with, the public work for which it was acquired or is heldshall offer to sell the land by private contract to the person from whom it was acquired or to the successor of that person
(c) At the current market value of the land as determined by a valuation carried out by a registered valuer; or (d) If the chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information or local authority considers it reasonable to do so, at any lesser price.
(2A) If the chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information or local authority and the offeree are unable to agree on a price following an offer made under subsection (2) of this section, the parties may agree that the price be determined by the Land Valuation Tribunal.
(3) Subsection (2) of this section shall not apply to land acquired after the 31 st day of January 1982 and before the date of commencement of the Public Works Amendment Act (No 2) 1987 for a public work that was not an essential work.
(4) Where the chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information or local authority believes on reasonable grounds that, because of the size, shape, or situation of the land he or it could not expect to sell the land to any person who did not own land adjacent to the land to be sold, the land may be sold to an owner of adjacent land at a price negotiated between the parties.
(5) For the purposes of this section, the term "successor", in relation to any person, means the person who would have been entitled to the land under the will or intestacy of that person had he owned the land at the date of his death; and, in any case where part of a person's land was acquired or taken, includes the successor in title of that person.

Sections 41 and 42 of the Act could be of relevance to the issue. Section 41 specifically provides for the disposal of Maori freehold land or general land owned by Maori as those terms are defined in s 4 of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.

Section 42 deals with the disposal of land not required for public work which does not have to be dealt with under s 40 or s 41. It is the submission of the plaintiff


356 High Court [1995]

that in the present case the land would fall within s 42 and could be disposed of under that section, assuming the land is to be treated at all as a public work.

It is, however, the submission for the plaintiff that s 40 of the Public Works Act does not apply to the land in question. First, because it is not the case that the land is no longer required for conservation purposes or any other conservation purposes or for any exchange under s 105 of the Public Works Act. Secondly, it is submitted that, even if s 40 did technically apply, the land was not acquired in the sense envisaged by the Public Works Act and that it would be unreasonable or impracticable to offer it back to the person from whom it was acquired under s 40 and that the land could therefore be best disposed of under the Land Act 1948 pursuant to s 42(3) ofthe Public Works Act. Thirdly, it is submitted that s 40 is not an absolute impediment to the sale of the land to the plaintiff under the Act and it is not a reason for declining to even consider the plaintiff's factual information.

There is evidence before the Court that the land in question was acquired by the Crown pursuant to a deed dated 21 May 1860 executed by the chiefs and people of the tribe Ngaitahu whose names are subscribed to the deed on behalf of themselves, their relatives and descendants. I do not know whether any other Maori interests have any claim to the land.

With all respect to the submissions for the plaintiff, it seems to be clear that the land in question comes within s 40(1) in that it is plainly land held for the purposes 20 of the Act and thus comes within the definition of "Government work". Equally plainly, given the interpretation placed by me upon the Act, it can only be disposed of by the Minister if it is no longer required for conservation purposes. In that event it would come within the clear language of s 40(1) of the Public Works Act.

Whilst the plaintiff invites me to expand the scope of the question by looking at the appropriate answer should it be determined the land comes within s 40 of the Public Works Act, I am not disposed to do so. This is not a case such as Auckland City Council v Taubmans (New Zealand) Ltd [1933] 3 NZLR 361, where it was appropriate for the Court to consider the issue. In the present case questions would arise as to whether the land was Maori freehold land or Maori customary land or general land owned by Maoris. It is certainly not appropriate that this Court enter upon any consideration of such an issue when Maori peoples with a possible interest in that issue are unrepresented, particularly having regard to the provisions of s 4 of the Act and the specific provisions of s 41 of the Public Works Act.

It is unnecessary for present purposes to set out the provisions of s 129 of the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 dealing with the definitions of Maori land, certain categories of which have already been traversed above. Nor do I intend to enter upon what are in the first instance the obligations of the chief executive of the Department of Survey and Land Information under s 40 in relation to the disposal of any land which the Minister may authorise to be disposed of under the Act.

The simple answer to this question is:

"Yes, s 40 of the Public Works Act 1981 does apply to the disposal of the land sought by the plaintiff."

Costs

Costs are reserved. The parties have been in Court most of the day, and I received very full and extensive submissions in respect of the issues.

Questions answered accordingly.

Solicitors for the plaintiff: Bell Gully Buddle Weir (Wellington).
Solicitors for the defendant: Crown Law Office (Wellington).

Reported by: M J O'Brien QC