Driveway clash brings claims 'intimidation'

Right-of-way shared driveway became battleground

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 03/11/2012
 A driveway dispute has meant Patrick van Berkel must knock down his garage
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

REBUILD: A driveway dispute has meant Patrick van Berkel must knock down his garage and build another at a cost of about $20,000.

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A pair of two-tonne concrete blocks dumped on a communal driveway were the final insult in an increasingly sour feud between Upper Hutt neighbours.

During a "campaign of intimidation", an upset developer also spray-painted one neighbour's garage and pinned unauthorised trespass notices to two nearby homes.

Tony Graham decided to make life difficult for two of his Elmslie Rd neighbours who refused to sign plans for a subdivision on his undeveloped next-door lot.

A right-of-way shared driveway between the properties became a battleground as Mr Graham sought first to inconvenience his neighbours, before dumping two two-tonne concrete blocks in their way.

Neighbour Patrick van Berkel, 58, recently took Mr Graham to court. He said his neighbour's behaviour had been "annoying, stressful and aggravating".

"The whole process left some ill-feeling between the neighbours. He got aggressive and began a campaign of intimidation," Mr van Berkel told The Dominion Post.

From late-2010 to mid-2011, Mr Graham stuck trespass notices on the front door of his neighbours' houses to try to stop them using the driveway, and attempted to invoice them to remove a "potentially" dangerous power pole that turned out to be safe.

He then dumped the concrete road blocks.

But despite the ill-feeling, after warring for so long on the driveway and through the courts, Mr van Berkel said he could see some humour in the situation.

"He hit us with a whole lot of things, one after the other. It was clever, I'll give him that.

"There's a certain part of me that admires what he's done. But it's now going to cost me."

About 1 square metre of Mr van Berkel's 50-year-old garage - built long before he bought his house - is on right-of-way land.

Mr Graham researched this and painted the wall of the garage showing where it must be "cut".

The High Court ruled that Mr van Berkel was to move his garage within a year, and in the meantime pay Mr Graham $1 a day to lease the land the garage encroaches on.

To knock it down, fill in some land closer to Mr van Berkel's home and build another garage may cost up to $20,000.

But the court also found Mr Graham had been a nuisance to his neighbours and instructed him to pay their court costs plus $2500 in damages to neighbour Gavin Scott.

Mr Scott, 71, who has a pacemaker and requires unimpeded ambulance access to his house, was effectively blocked from getting to his home once the concrete block was put in place.

The position of one of the blocks meant he had to walk about 200m up his steep driveway for more than six weeks.

"I was shocked, seeing a concrete block right in the middle of my driveway. I was absolutely staggered. He's certainly destroyed any positive relationship we might have in the future.

"We've put a lot of time into this, but it's almost been an entertainment because he was so obviously in the wrong.

"We just wonder what he plans next, what's his next scheme."

Mr Graham refused to comment.

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- The Dominion Post

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