Aimee Dartnall

Solicitor
Aimee Dartnall

Aimee has a Bachelor of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in politics, from the University of Otago. She worked in local government advising on alcohol regulation, before joining Franks Ogilvie in early 2018.

Aimee has expertise in local government regulations, with specialist knowledge of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 as the former Secretary to District Licensing Committees in Wellington.

She is also experienced in public and administrative law, Incorporated Societies administration and governance (constitution amendments, creating disciplinary procedures), and company governance (creating procurement policies, funding policies, standard contract templates) and admin (advising on reporting requirements).

Aimee has worked with trusts, Resource Management Act issues, and has growing expertise in litigation. Aimee has appeared in a number of High Court cases, including for judicial review and Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 claims, as well as in the District Licensing Committee and the Court of Appeal.

Aimee
in the news
January 20, 2021

Overview -

The client made repeated unsuccessful requests to their local council for information in a series of emails over a period of time. Franks Ogilvie helped the client obtain the information and lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman, which was upheld.  

Issue –

Our client wanted information from the Council about land they administered in the local area. The client made a series of email requests over a period of almost a year. None of these requests specifically cited the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (‘LGOIMA’), but this does not mean that they weren’t valid information requests under the Act. The Council never provided the information.

What we did –

Franks Ogilvie wrote a ‘formal’ information request to the Council, citing the LGOIMA, on our client’s behalf. The Council said it would take sometime to find the information and that the client would have to pay for the Council’s time. The client paid and the Council provided a set of information. Some of the requested information was withheld.

We complained to the Ombudsman on our client’s behalf. We contested the Council’s failure to provide the information when it was first requested, its decision to charge for its time, and its decision to withhold some of the information.

Outcome –

The Ombudsman upheld the majority of our complaint and most of the withheld information was released. The Council also refunded the charges.

 

If you are interested in making a complaint to the Ombudsman on the basis of a OIA or LGOIMA request, please get in contact with Aimee.

December 22, 2020

Summary

Thames-Coromandel District Council (‘Council’) declined to approve Mayor Sandra Goudie signing the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration (‘Declaration’). Hauraki Coromandel Climate Action Incorporated (‘HCCA’) applied for judicial review of this decision on the basis that the Declaration tackled important climate change issues and as such, the Council was under an obligation to follow proper decision-making processes when making this decision.

Justice Palmer agreed with HCCA. He declared the decision unlawful, quashed it, and ordered the Council to make it again following the correct decision-making procedures.

Background

The Declaration was drafted by Local Government New Zealand (‘LGNZ’) and circulated to mayors and regional council chairs on 15 October 2015 in the lead up to COP21 in Paris in December 2015. The Declaration outlined the urgent need for responsive leadership and a holistic approach to address climate change. In 2017, around 65 mayors and chairs signed the Declaration renewing the call for action. The Declaration included a number of ‘Council Commitments’, including to develop and implement ambitious action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

LGNZ did not have a legal opinion on the status of the Declaration but they confirmed that it was a leaders’ declaration and did not automatically bind local and regional councils.

Mayor Goudie provided a report to the Council on 19 March 2019 outlining her view that the Declaration is “a potentially binding document as it commits the Council to developing and implementing ‘ambitious plan’. The term ‘commit’ means ‘to pledge to a cause or a course of action’.” The purpose of the report was to enable the Council to consider signing the Declaration. She suggested that the Council resolve to receive the report and continue to take action, following a robust decision-making process, in response to climate change.

Councillor Peters proposed an alternative resolution. He moved that the Council approve the Mayor signing the Declaration. That motion was lost. Instead, the Council adopted the Mayor’s suggestions and resolved to receive her report, continue to take action following robust decision-making process and, in addition, to request staff take a broad view of the actions undertaken to mitigate the drivers of climate change and scan how other councils are responding.

The Case

HCCA accepted that the Declaration was not a legally binding contract but argued that it was a public promise that certain commitments would be kept. Because of this, the Declaration (if signed by the Mayor with the approval of the Council) could give rise to a legitimate expectation that the Council would adhere to the list of Council Commitments and turn these into policy initiatives. Interestingly, the Council argued that it was a “non-binding aspirational political statement by Mayors and Chairs that has little or nothing to do with the Council.”

Palmer J opened his judgment by stating that “[d]ecisions about climate change deserve heightened scrutiny on judicial review, depending on their context.” He accepted the evidence that anthropogenic climate change is occurring and will have severe environmental impacts and that this is unlikely to be avoidable unless substantial mitigation steps are undertaken immediately. The Ministry for the Environment’s National Climate Change Risk Assessment identifies the people most at-risk of climate change effects are those in low-lying coastal areas, people who rely on strong social networks like the elderly, people in lower socio-economic circumstances and Maori. Thames-Coromandel has a higher than average proportion of people in these categories.  

The Judge found that the decision to accept or reject the Declaration could directly affect the rights and duties of ratepayers and residents.

He also agreed with HCCA that the decision could have legal implications and was of such strong public interest that it was susceptible to judicial review (unlike normal policy decisions, which are not). He found that the significance of the decision was such that it deserved heightened scrutiny, similar to a human rights case.

This all means that any decision the Council makes on climate change issues and strategy invokes the decision-making processes outlined in ss 76 – 80 of the Local Government Act 2002, as well as the Council’s Significance and Engagement Policy.  These decisions must only be made following community engagement and a proper assessment of the effects of the proposed decision on the community. The Council did not follow these processes when making its decision and therefore the decision was unlawful.

What next?

Palmer J declared the decision unlawful, quashed it, and ordered the Council to make it again following the correct decision-making procedures in the LGA and the Policy. The Mayor has stated publically that despite the judgment, she will not sign the Declaration.

May 18, 2020

Overview -

The client was a local sports club. It had an informal constitution but was not a registered incorporated society. We helped them adapt their constitution to meet the requirements for registration under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 while making sure that it still fit their current operational model and allowed for future development as a charitable organisation.

Issue –

A local sports club wanted to register as an incorporated society and, potentially, as a charity or not-for-profit entity in the future.

What we did –

The client had a constitution but it was missing some key requirements for incorporation. The client wanted to make sure that whatever changes they made would fit the club’s current operational model. As a local sports club, they didn’t want to adopt rules that they wouldn’t be able to follow. They also wanted to make sure the new constitution would meet the requirements for charitable registration under the Charities Act 2005 in case they decided to seek charitable status in the future.

Franks Ogilvie reviewed the current constitution and drafted new clauses which were required for incorporation. We also re-worked some of the existing clauses to make them easier to follow, like the procedures for appointing committee members and taking disciplinary action. It was important to make sure that the rules weren’t too onerous for a small tightly knit club to implement.

The objects were refined to reflect the aims of the club and its role in promoting sport in the community.

Outcome –

The client adopted the new constitution and successfully applied for registration as an incorporated society.  

 

If you would like assistance on drafting a constitution for your incorporated society application, please contact solicitor Aimee Dartnall

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