Squeeze on sheds
Is the Kiwi garden shed about to become extinct?
Properties across Auckland are increasingly too small to legally fit a kitset shelter for a few tools and a lawnmower.
The Building Act 2004 says the detached buildings must be placed their height away from a boundary or a house. Anything closer requires a building consent.
Dannemora resident Rashna Tata feels picked on.
A casual look around the neighbourhood reveals many houses with a shed up against the fence, but because of an anonymous complaint the council is cracking down on her's.
"A lot of people don't even know that a rule like this exists," she says.
"Is the council going to tell every other owner with a shed on the boundary - or just me?"
Mrs Tata says it would be prohibitively expensive to apply for a building consent.
Council compliance inspector Travis Tannahill sent a letter to Mrs Tata on September 23.
He says her case does not comply with the law but the council shows discretion with garden sheds because it considers them low risk.
"In these instances, council allows the buildings to remain in their current position," he says.
"Council will then place a note on the land information register that an unconsented building is on the property."
A council spokeswoman says shed inspections are only carried out when somebody complains and the number of complaints is not specifically recorded.
Mrs Tata says she was eventually forced to accept the infringement on her Land Information Memorandum or receive a "notice to fix", at a cost of $230.
What is the point of the law if people routinely flout it and enforcement doesn't really change anything, she says.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesman Britton Broun says buildings must be designed and constructed so there is a low probability of fire spread across a boundary.
One acceptable solution for a shed near a fence to comply with the Building Code is for the wall closest to the boundary to be fire-rated.
Howick Ward councillor Sharon Stewart says she cannot see what is wrong with Mrs Tata's shed.
It is not right that the council only acts on complaints, and officers should also enforce the law when they notice an indiscretion when they are driving down the street, she says.
"It's a bit of a grey area and they need to clean it up.
"There are literally thousands of people in our neck of the woods and around the country that have all got these little garden sheds."
Mrs Stewart has asked council officers to look at the situation because "it's going to become a real problem".
"Otherwise we will have to just ban all garden sheds."
Mrs Tata has a question for lawmakers. "When you made Dannemora, were you not aware that you can't possibly have a rule like this and make it work?"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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