Cafe owner defends 'ugly' fence as complaints grow

Cafe owner Ben Meier with the recycled timber "fence" that has upset many Haumoana residents.
EVA BRADLEY/ FAIRFAX NZ

Cafe owner Ben Meier with the recycled timber "fence" that has upset many Haumoana residents.

A "spur of the moment" decision by a local entrepreneur to set up a seaside cafe with a head-turning frontage has gone down like a cold cup of coffee.

Part of the fence in Haumoana, Hawke's Bay, has already been pulled down, allegedly by irate locals, and its owner claims one man even threatened to burn it down to mark Guy Fawkes night.

The man behind the project, builder Ben Meier, says he has been stunned by the negative reaction to the fence, constructed out of recycled materials in front of the coffee house.

His plans have also been the subject of complaints to Hastings District Council, which he claims blocked him from holding an opening event at the cafe last Friday.

The construction has been criticised on social media as an eyesore, a safety hazard and "an embarrassment for Haumoana".

But others have praised Meier's entrepreneurial spirit and defended his right to artistic expression.

A council spokeswoman said that, as well as receiving complaints about the fence, noise from the property and the "ugly" nature of the construction, it was also working through a number of potential consenting issues related to the plans to open the cafe.

"Many of the complaints have been about the 'fence'. However, it is not technically a fence as it is not attached to the ground and is referred to by the owner as a work of art," she said.

"Council is still investigating what, if anything, it can do about that. Whether the art is good or not is not something council staff can judge."

Meier admitted telling the council to "f... off a few times" out of frustration.

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"People are threatening me and my livelihood. I've invested everything I've got into this project and all I'm getting is people fighting against me.

"If they don't like it, they don't have to look at it."

 - Stuff

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