'Inane waving' complaints not enough to deny Queenstown winery an off-licence
A convoluted four-year feud between neighbours involving accusations of "inane waving" harassment and roaming dogs may have finally come to an end.
Queenstown's Mount Edward Winery will continue to sell wine from its cellar door, despite objections from a neighbour citing loud music, roaming dogs and harassment via "inane waving".
The Queenstown Lakes District Licensing Committee awarded the Gibbston boutique winery a renewed three-year off-licence after a hearing on June 8.
The renewal is the latest development in a feud between the winery's manager, Duncan Forsyth, and neighbours Ana Bajurin and Earl Matheson, who moved next door to the vineyard in 2012.
Committee chair Judge Bill Unwin said he felt the hearing was used as "a battleground to air their respective grievances", but they could take limited action as the complaints fell outside the panel's jurisdiction.
"The personal antagonism between Mr Forsyth and the objectors appeared to be quite toxic," Unwin said in the committee's June 16 decision.
Complaints began in 2013, months after the couple moved next door to the winery, which was established in 1998.
A flurry of noise complaints were lodged almost immediately, mainly concerning a "loud stereo" vineyard workers used during harvest.
Harvest involved "a happy and convivial bunch of people who liked music", Forsyth told the hearing, and no complaints had been received in the previous 15 years of harvests.
Forsyth wrote a letter of apology acknowledging it was "a bit early for some banging music" and said the music would be turned down. He also bought quieter processing equipment.
From there, tension between the neighbours escalated.
In May 2016, a complaint was lodged after a puppy owned by Forsyth's partner ran onto the couple's property. Further complaints were lodged after another employee's dog barked at the couple's dog through a fence.
"From our licensing perspective, not only was the relevance of the [dog] issue dubious, but we considered there had to be a better way of dealing with such a problem," Unwin said.
A "vexatious and vindictive" objection to the license renewal was lodged by the vineyard's neighbours, Forsyth told the hearing.
Noise issues had "nothing whatsoever to do with the sale and supply of alcohol", he said – a statement the committee agreed with.
Bajurin said Forsyth was "unsuitable to hold a liquor licence or manage or train staff" and her objection to the license renewal was "the last resort" after previous attempts to resolve issues were unsuccessful.
Following the objection, Forsyth advised staff to be "pleasant and neighbourly", to which Bajurin claimed she was being harassed "by inane waving and tooting of the car horn" every time they were seen.
The initial renewal objection was the negative effect on the "good order" of the area.
The committee's ruling said the license renewal had "no impact on the amenity and good order of this locality".
"For the reasons we have attempted to articulate, the off-licence is renewed for three years on its present conditions."
As for the feud, the committee made no ruling on the allegations against each party, but felt "bound to point out" the issues seemed "ridiculously simple" to resolve.