A Wellington lawyer is taking an old law that dictates who gets to supply milk to Wellington to court.
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DARRIAN TRAYNOR/GETTY IMAGES An old law over who gets to supply Wellington with milk is being taken to court.

If he wins, he could be the only legal supplier of milk in the capital.

Lawyer Tyrone Barugh asked the Wellington City Council to grant him a milk supply licence under a 102-year-old law that gives the council the right to buy and sell milk and to issue permits to others.

The council has denied Barugh the permit.

But the problem is the law – the Wellington Milk Supply Act 1919 – never seems to have been formally repealed.

Now Barugh is taking his case before the High Court.

The act was a forerunner to more modern health and safety legislation brought in to control the conditions where milk was supplied to the public.

Later the milk supply moved from small local suppliers to big dairy companies.

Barugh said the council initially said the law was deprecated – a fancy legal term for the law no longer being valid.

However, Barugh said he did not think it could be and asked the council to consider his application in good faith, but it was declined.

So Barugh is taking the case further. .

“I can see why some people may consider this capricious, but it’s a reminder that we have laws on the books that are not fit for purpose.”

Barugh said if he won he might be Wellington’s only legal milk supplier.

“I would need to get all the regulatory stuff for it but consider being the one to legally (the only one legally) to supply milk to somewhere in Wellington like a bakery or cafe.”

Victoria University professor Dr Dean Knight,​ who specialises in public and government law, agrees.

“The rules have to be fit for purpose and there are a number still around that could be considered stale.”

He said such laws should be tidied up.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said in correspondence with Barugh, the council had maintained that the legislation has been impliedly repealed due to the passing of subsequent laws.

The hearing is set down for June.

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