'Slumsville' Auckland developer must pay $90k costs, Environment Court rules
An Auckland developer faces a bill of $90,000 after erecting eight temporary houses that flushed human waste into a stream.
Augustine Lau has a history of legal trouble, with numerous court judgments finding against him, including a case concerning earthworks at two waterfront properties at Waiwera that caused a steep and dangerous bank, another around a garage illegally converted into a "house", and another dealing with a Paremoremo section where relocatable houses were installed to create what neighbours described as "slumsville".
Eight temporary dwellings he put up in the east Auckland suburb of Flatbush on an Ormiston Rd section that only had consent for one were found by the Environment Court in December to have dumped raw sewage into a nearby stream.
Now Judge Jeff Smith, of the Environment Court, has ordered Lau and co-owners to pay Auckland Council 80 per cent of their court costs, which comes to $90,000.
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The other three found responsible for costs in the case were Liansen Mao, Jiawen Mao, and a company wholly owned by Lau called 'Jesus (2016) Company Limited'.
In a decision, Judge Smith said he believed the amount was justified by the "repeated hearings where there was no merit" about Lau's case.
The judge awarded costs incurred by Auckland Council in hiring external consultants, contractors, and even the cost of salaried officials, which the judge acknowledged generally could not be claimed back in applications for court costs.
Steven Pearce of Auckland Council said the decision recognised that "ratepayers shouldn't have to fund the costs of pursuing such serious and persistent offending".
"When we have to go through the courts because of such serious offending, there is a significant cost to the council and Auckland ratepayers."
Judge Smith said Lau had offered "continued resistance" to court orders and made allegations that council officers were "seeking revenge" against him, which had required council employees to give evidence in court but also made Lau liable for their costs.
Auckland Council erected portable toilets as a temporary measure for the residents of the property from September through to January, a cost of $5400 that Smith said Lau would also have to pay.
"The court held very real concerns for the health and safety of people and animals in the vicinity of the wastewater and effluent discharges," the judgment said.
"Mr Lau's approach was to dispute the opinion of the expert called and assert that he knew better."
In an interview last year Lau attacked the Resource Management Act and what he said was inefficiency at Auckland Council.
"They can say I'm a slumlord or anything they want, but I don't care," he said. "The council is bloody lazy. I don't care what the judge says. I know that under the current rules I'm not favourable at all. But I'm the first person to do the revolution."
Pearce said the council often allowed people time to make small issues compliant but considered Lau's offending to be "very serious".
"There are a number of additional Court proceedings underway addressing this site and others and, as such, the council cannot comment further at this stage."