Lageder v Christchurch City Council [2018] NZDC 7572

Published 11 April 2019

Default judgment — council consent — District Court Rules 2014, r 15 — Local Government Act 2002, s 150. The applicant sought to have the Court set aside a default judgment made against him, relating to a claim of unpaid fees for a resource consent application. The applicant owned a block of land that he sought to sub-divide. The applicant entered a contract with a surveying company who, as his agent, signed a resource consent application that clearly stipulated the fees and charges associated with the application, and the applicant then paid a deposit for consenting fees of $1,550. The Council process then began and, after issues arose with the consent, the applicant stopped engaging with the Council. The Council subsequently invoiced the applicant for fees incurred, totalling $5,483.50 less the deposit ($3,933.50 outstanding). The applicant failed to pay and ultimately proceedings were issued and the applicant was served notice. No Statement of Defence was filed and the judgment was granted, plus costs (on a 1A basis) of $1,660.55. The Judge, in determining whether to set aside the default judgment had to be satisfied on two issues: (a) Was there a substantial ground of defence available to the person seeking to set aside the default judgment? (b) Was the failure to file a Statement of Defence reasonably explained? The applicant argued that historic grievances with the Council, his dissatisfaction with the surveying company, and his failure to personally sign the application for subdivision, were his grounds for defence. The Judge held that none of the submissions provided substantial grounds for defence. The first two failed as they were irrelevant; the third failed because the surveying company signed as his agent, and the contract between those parties was unambiguous regarding the services to be provided. On the issue of whether the applicant's failure to file a Statement of Defence was reasonably explained, the Judge noted that it was moot, as the first step had failed. However, the Judge did consider the applicant's submissions, which his Honour found would also have been insufficient. For those reasons, the Judge declined to set aside the judgment, and ordered the applicant to pay costs on a 1B basis. Judgment Date: 20 April 2018.