Helilogging Ltd ((in Receivership) and liquidation) v Civil Aviation Authority of NewZealand

JurisdictionNew Zealand
CourtHigh Court
JudgeCooke J
Judgment Date13 December 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] NZHC 3305
Docket NumberCIV-2014-485-11204
Date13 December 2019

[2019] NZHC 3305

IN THE HIGH COURT OF NEW ZEALAND

WELLINGTON REGISTRY

I TE KŌTI MATUA O AOTEAROA

TE WHANGANUI-A-TARA ROHE

Cooke J

CIV-2014-485-11204

Between
Helilogging Limited (in receivership and liquidation)
First Plaintiff
Mark Wayne Ford (as trustee of the Wessex Trust)
Second Plaintiff
and
Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
Defendant
Counsel:

P J Dale QC, E Telle and L E Steel for Plaintiffs

L J Taylor QC, G M Richards and S F Lomaloma for Defendant

Administrative, Tort-refusal of application to engage in helicopter logging activities with a former military helicopter — misfeasance in a public office — deceit — Civil Aviation Act 1990

The Court held that Director had not made a decision to decline the application prior to undertaking the review process. The memorandum described what the Director proposed to decide, but was provided in draft form to the CAA's chief legal counsel for advice. No final decision had been made at that stage. A person or body charged with a decision-making function was entitled to form views during a decision-making process without that involving impropriety.

There was no statutory requirement for a submission/consultation process. It would not be an abuse of power for the Director to provide Helilogging with a properly formulated preliminary decision and invite submissions upon it. Neither could it be an abuse to ask for further information. The introduction of the seven-stage process was not knowingly beyond the powers of the Director. The elements required to establish misfeasance had not been established. There had been no dishonesty, or action by the Director in bad faith. The Director had not acted with targeted malice towards Helilogging, and neither had he taken steps knowing that he was acting beyond his powers, or recklessly indifferent to whether he was doing so.

The action in deceit failed. There was no dishonest misrepresentation made by the Director, there were no misrepresentations at all.

It had been open to a reasonable Director to decline the applications. The application to use a Special category aircraft for commercial activities involved an exemption from fundamental aspects of the Civil Aviation Rules. The accident history in relation to ex-military aircraft could by itself have been a reason to conclude that the s37(2) CAA prerequisites were not met. However, a reasonable Director could have granted an exemption. The fact that the application involved departure from significant rules, and was potentially precedent setting would not, by itself, mean it could not be granted. While the accident history of ex-military helicopters was very poor, the materials Helilogging had put together in terms of airworthiness, operational procedures, the maintenance programme were regarded as very high quality. Section 37 CAA was a power that required the Director to exercise judgment, and then a discretion. Reasonable Directors could reach different conclusions. That was not only because of the discretionary nature of s37(1) CAA, but also because different judgments could be formed by different persons when making the assessments required under s37(2) CAA.

Unless Heliogging could demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that they could have overturned the decision through judicial review and that the application would have been granted, then no loss of that kind would have been caused. There were grounds of judicial review that would have succeeded.

The treatment of Helilogging was far from ideal. But that did not mean the Director was liable in tort.

The claims were dismissed.

JUDGMENT OF Cooke J
Table of Contents

ESSENCE OF THE PLAINTIFFS' CASE

3

THE ELEMENTS OF THE ALLEGED TORTS

12

Misfeasance in a public office

13

Deceit

19

THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

24

The civil aviation system

25

The Westland Wessex

36

The requirements of the Rules

46

The Director's exemption power

53

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

60

Evidentiary issues

61

CAA concerns regarding helicopter safety

66

Development of Mr Ford's proposals

77

Meeting February 2003

83

The Director's May 2003 letter

91

Meeting May 2003

98

The 2004 flight trials

103

CAA assessment

112

Advice to the Director

118

The Director's response

132

The judicial review challenge

152

PLAINTIFFS' FIRST MAIN ALLEGATION: MISFEASANCE SURROUNDING NOVEMBER MEMORANDUM

161

Views in 9 November memorandum

163

Accuracy of Director's affidavit

168

Non-disclosure

172

Decision making integrity

174

Procedural misfeasance

178

Other allegations

181

Conclusion on 2004 allegations

185

THE SEVEN-STAGE PROCESS

188

Further information

189

Assessment and Preliminary decision

197

First involvement of Mr Lewis

201

Plaintiffs' representations

208

Final advice and decision

213

Steps following decision

220

PLAINTIFFS' SECOND ALLEGATION: MISFEASANCE SURROUNDING AUGUST 2005 DECISION

224

Obtaining the advice of Mr Lewis

227

Timing of instructions

231

Mr Lewis' letter of advice

234

The earlier report of 12 January 1999

240

The vibration flight

246

Disclosure that advice was out of date

252

Alterations made to Mr Lewis' 23 July letter

255

Conversation between Director and Irene King

263

Conclusions on misfeasance and deceit

271

OTHER ISSUES RAISED BY PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS

275

Was the decision reasonably open to the Director?

276

Causation and loss

282

Would judicial review have been successful?

291

Mr Lewis and vicarious liability

299

Limitation

305

CONCLUSION

[308]

1

The plaintiffs in this proceeding are Mr Mark Ford and his company now in receivership and liquidation. I will refer to them collectively as “Helilogging”. On 19 August 2005 the then Director of Civil Aviation, Mr John Jones, made decisions under s 37 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 (the Act) declining applications made by Helilogging to enable it to engage in helicopter logging activities using a type of former British military helicopter, the Wessex Mk 2, that had been acquired for that purpose. In this proceeding the plaintiffs advance two causes of action associated with this decision. The first is a claim for misfeasance in a public office, and the second is a claim in deceit.

2

The trial took approximately seven weeks. It was initially scheduled to be a little longer, but by an earlier judgment dated 12 July 2019 I ordered that there would be a split trial, and that any issues relating to damages would be dealt with at a later hearing. 1 This was primarily due to the delays in the plaintiffs formulating their case on damages. The present judgment accordingly deals with liability, and what is described as “regulatory causation” as more precisely outlined in my earlier judgment.

ESSENCE OF THE PLAINTIFFS' CASE
3

Without wishing to limit the claims as pleaded, it may assist if I summarise the essence of the plaintiffs' case at the outset.

4

Helilogging wished to engage in heli-logging operations pursuant to which felled logs would be transported as an underslung load by the Wessex Mk 2 helicopter, particularly from more remote locations where road transport was not possible. Helilogging began engaging with the Civil Aviation Authority (the “CAA”) in relation to its proposals to be authorised to do so from late 2002, and received advice from senior officials on what the requirements were. It then engaged in a significant exercise involving major expenditure to meet the requirements, and it made the necessary applications. Following successful flight trials using the Wessex it pressed Mr Jones for his decision. Mr Jones advised, however, that he needed further information before he could make a decision.

5

Judicial review proceedings were commenced by Helilogging in which it sought urgent mandatory orders. By judgment dated 16 December 2004 MacKenzie J did not grant such orders, but rather adjourned the proceedings so that a seven-stage process that Mr Jones had implemented could be followed in order that a decision could be made. 2 That seven-stage process was originally set out in an internal memorandum of Mr Jones dated 19 November 2004 which had been provided to Helilogging.

6

The plaintiffs now allege that Mr Jones had already made up his mind to decline the application at the time of writing the 19 November memorandum, however. They say that his statements that he needed more time, and more information, including statements made in an affidavit he filed in the judicial review proceedings, were false. They rely on an earlier memorandum dated 9 November 2004 authored by Mr Jones that was not revealed at the time. They say that this memorandum demonstrates that Mr Jones had already decided to decline the application for the reasons he there set out. They say that the failure to disclose this memorandum, and the representations in his affidavit and otherwise that he needed more information to make a decision involved misfeasance and the tort of deceit.

7

The claims involve further allegations. The seven-stage process took some time to complete, and ultimately led to the decision of Mr Jones on 19 August 2005 to decline the application. Steps taken shortly before the final decision are also alleged to found claims for misfeasance and deceit. In particular before reaching his final decision Mr Jones and Mr John Fogden, the CAA official providing advice to him on the decision, obtained advice from Mr Bernie Lewis, a well-respected and experienced former test pilot who had had flying experience in the Wessex. By letter dated 23 July 2005 Mr Lewis advised that he had grave doubts about the safety of the Wessex for the tasks suggested by Helilogging. This letter was relied on by Mr Fogden in his advice to Mr Jones, and then by Mr...

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