A neighbours-at-war scrap between alternative lifestylers living their dream and a Tahora farmer is playing out in the New Plymouth District Court this week.
Farmer Peter John Kennedy, 52, denies assaulting Wayne McIvor and threatening harm to his partner Elizabeth Shewan in the remote community of Tahora, east of Stratford, in December 2012.
The couple felt so intimidated they abandoned their property in the following days, Crown prosecutor Nina Laird said.
Defence counsel Kelly Marriner told the jury the evidence they were to hear might well make them feel they were "sitting in their La-z-boy chairs watching Neighbours at War on their televisions".
To the jury, Shewan described how she and her partner had taken the risk of shifting to Taranaki so McIvor could be closer to his three children who lived in Stratford.
Their dream was to develop a tourist venture on the Forgotten World Highway, teaching self-sufficiency and selling crystals on the five-acre block near Tangarakau Gorge on Ohura Rd.
They bought land from Kennedy for $50,000.
They had permission to hunt on nearby DOC land, killing goats and possums to make a living while converting the former woolshed into a home, planting a garden and orchard, landscaping the land and building a crystals shop.
Shewan said things came to a head when McIvor and his son Ryan started building a fence - something they believed was supposed to be built by Kennedy as part of the purchase agreement in July 2011.
An angry Kennedy arrived on his quad bike and allegedly verbally abused Shewan. Kennedy was accusing them of putting the fence in the wrong place, she said.
"He stormed up to me and abused me. He said, 'I'm going to punch you in the face'. He was standing over me. I was terrified."
He grabbed McIvor around the head and wrenched it towards him, kneeing him in the groin, the court heard.
"I thought he was going to snap his neck," Shewan said.
"His eyes were like pin-pricks. He was on something. He was crazy."
Her partner was left in shock, his neck swollen and sore. The children were very upset.
They reported the alleged assault to police through Skype on their computer. She drove her husband to Hawera Hospital for treatment.
At night spotlights came through their windows and they heard shots fired. "I was terrified. I couldn't sleep at all."
Three days later Kennedy returned, she said, in his truck with a gun on his dashboard, pointing towards them.
"If you want an enemy you've got one," Shewan said Kennedy told her.
He drew his fingers across his neck, made masturbation motions and aimed a stream of "truly foul" swear words at her, the court heard.
"He was screaming at me. He pretty much thought he was above the law because the police were so far away."
He punched the bonnet of his truck several times, got back in his truck and "screamed away up the road through the Moki Tunnel".
"It affected me hugely and still does. I don't sleep anymore. I'm awake and listening.
"It's affected our whole family. They are fearful what might happen and because I'm testifying."
They left their property on December 19, 2012, leaving "pretty much everything".
Cross-examining, Marriner said Shewan had signed an addendum to say the property was not intended as their principal place of residence.
Marriner said there had never been an agreement to build the boundary fence. Shewan disagreed.
The trial is expected to finish today.
- © Fairfax NZ News