By Pauline Stewart.
In a democracy, an eight out of ten vote would carry some sway. New Zealand is a democratic country. Its legal system is British and majority rule still applies when government (every level) is elected by the people for the people - even when the system falls short … and it does.
The essence of democracy is that the settled will of the people shall prevail. In this case it has not.
The essence of democracy is that on each separate occasion, both sides should accept the result. In this case, those who are aggrieved - the majority, struggle to accept the result because as they see it, the rules were bent to enact an unfair and unjust result and being given 15 days to fight it with not enough financial resource, is not a reasonable outcome in terms of a democracy. It is too costly to fight for rights that are supposed to be the essence of democracy.
The essence of democracy is that whether you pass good laws or bad laws, they are equal laws. The way the laws were enacted and, in some instances, skirted around, the application has not been equal.
“We are a rural settlement, 10 homes - most lifestyle blocks,” says a representative of the ten with whom The Informer has been meeting. To be rural, a property has a lot of freedoms. You can have a cow shed or implement shed or marine activity. But you can’t have an industrial activity. A storage business is classed as an industrial activity. If you want to try and stretch this into an allowable activity in a rural area, applying for a Resource Consent is the first step.
A related situation. One couple who live in this rural area, own and operate their own business that sometimes requires their needing to store goods in the course of their business, on their property. However, they are the only ones who move the goods at any time. No one else comes on to their property to conduct business. They’re well within their rights to have the containers as they are a registered farm. The limitation is they can’t use them for storage and it seems unfair for the Applicant to complain to Council about them, mentioning that these residents were contesting their Resource Consent application and that they were trades competition. Recently, they were told that they cannot continue to do this because it is too much ‘industrial’ activity within the rural classification.
One day, two people who wanted to establish a new business in this rural area, approached the ten settlements to get agreement from the home owners to establish their business. Eight out of ten did not agree and would not sign the agreement. The other two – one an older couple, who agreed to this development were the tenants at 8 Golf Rd, who in my opinion have no choice but to sign as they would eventually need to move out. The other was a civil construction business who sometimes stored vehicles on his property, but again, he was the only one who moved his vehicles on or off the property. He did not sign anything or put in a submission against as he didn’t want his business affected. The applicant had spoken to this man’s wife in an unpleasant manner which added to why they would not sign any agreement. Eight of the ten houses didn’t support this business being established here, including the members of the Mercury Bay Golf Club committee.
The business being proposed was a storage facility. The diagram explaining the activity showed 36 container storage units, an extra six-unit block, an existing shed and outdoor space for boat and caravan parking. A maximum of 18 passings a day was proposed. This is not the same as a property owner driving their own business vehicle in and out.
At this point, some business activity had begun even though a Resource Consent had not yet been applied for. The eight owners objecting approached a lawyer to write a letter asking for it to be a public notification consent. Thames Coromandel District Council said No to this request; they would just give limited notice to immediately effected houses. A Hearing date was set. Thames Coromandel District Council subcontracted, Kinetic, a Hamilton based company to prepare a report for the Hearing.
A Hearing happens when there is an objection such as this. Three of the parties who objected attended the Hearing on behalf of the neighbours and presented their case. There were restrictions on what they could argue. For instance, when a rural settlement is faced with a request for an industrial activity to be established, the first thing a property owner thinks about apart from safety, is the decline in the value of their property. Rural lifestyle is attractive and sought after. However, this argument cannot be used in such a Hearing.
“There was nothing we could do about it,” said one of the home owners.
Another resident rang the Mayor’s office and made an appointment to see the Mayor in Thames. When he rang to confirm his appointment, the Secretary reported that, “The Mayor won’t see you about this as he has been briefed and due process has been followed.”
“I felt cut off. It was not the only thing I wanted to ask the Mayor. I hoped to ask, is this rural area going to be an extension of the existing industrial area? We really needed an answer.”
The matter of Hearings: The three homeowners who attended the Hearing to present their case, were not prepared for the pressure of the applicant who came with planner, traffic engineer, and lawyer. The homeowners had their letters of objection, their dignity and their belief in justice applying to the regulations of a rural area. But that was not enough.
Knowing they could not argue the point of declining property values due to the industrial business proposal; their arguments were: -
*The road is 5.5 metres wide. The Council standard requirement for a business road is 6 metres. Why did Council accept the 5.5 meters width? *Some of the lifestyle blocks have young children and there is no footpath with the increased traffic from the business. * Safety and a reduction in quality of life.
“We sensed that the Council wanted to award the Resource Consent to this storage business from the start, “said one of the objectors. “Another unjust aspect of this was that the storage business had started trading - clear flaunting of the conditions and regulations.” This seems rather inconsistent when compared with the Commission conducted into the actions of the people who built their rock wall along Buffalo Beach before they were granted a consent. Here TCDC has allowed a business to commence and operate and not stopped them before a Resource Consent has been applied for, let alone granted. One resident said ruefully, “I don’t want to start a war among neighbours but the terms were, ‘no trading until a concrete driveway is in’. This business started trading before the Hearing, definitely no concrete driveway, and the Council has looked the other way. One of the arguments forwarded to justify this was, ‘We have a mortgage to pay’, but we all have mortgages to pay. Permission to break special rules for ‘special’ people is not right.”
These residents feel let down and betrayed. One of the other home owners said, “We have so many questions. We feel bitter at the way this has happened.
Q. Are there plans for re-zoning that the property owners don’t know about?
Q. Where does majority of opinion sit in this democracy?
80 percent did not want the industrial business to be established here. The Hearing seemed to have a predicated outcome.”
This homeowner continued.” We received a letter from the subcontracted company, Kinetic, in Hamilton. Why would a company in Hamilton be contracted by TCDC to do something like this?
The letter stated, ‘It should be granted.’ We understood that the company’s job was to be unbiased; but the letter urging TCDC to grant the consent was anything but. The problem now that I see is anyone can buy a property and do what they like as Council have set a precedent with 9 Golf Road by letting them run a business and not following the correct rules or procedures. Another property has been purchased the other side of Tim where a business has begun and gravel surfacing six metres up the drive has been done. As we speak, the new business owner in this whole matter has raised the level of the land and it dams up water on the neighbours side as soon as it rains.”
“They do what they like,” says rural owner, Tim. “The couple who ran their own business and stored goods on their site, did not have other people accessing their property, and were told to stop; but a storage facility is allowed to be set up were coming and going from 8.00 am to 6.00pm seven days a week carries on in what is a rural area.”
There does need to be some clarification from TCDC.
There are eight households who feel cut off from the democratic process.
Why inconsistency in making rules? Is Rural now Industrial?
There are other industrial possibilities in Whitianga.
142 Moewai Road up for sale in NZ Herald, Sunday, 30 April is Industrial Zone 15.9 hectare lot. Local resident said, “You can’t tell me that Council did not know this property was Industrial zoned land. It may not have been for sale at this time, but they must know its zoning.” The possibility of other industrial land was brought up in their submissions.
Residents feel the council has treated them with disregard. They brought up the footpaths, streetlights, the security risk and no response.
Perhaps Golf Road should be re-zoned to rural lifestyle as the lots are too small for sub-division in a rural zone or if the council want industrial, why not re-zone all of it. This would allow the residents to sell their properties as commercial and not lose value.
Caption: Storage Sheds