Sounds residents win battle over road

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 01/11/2012

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A long and winding battle over a 50-year-old road near Okiwi Bay has ended with a High Court decision allowing continued access for property owners.

However, Wairangi Bay resident Chris Thornley, who heads the forestry company that wanted to close the road and which triggered the legal fight, said an appeal was "highly likely".

"I'm taking legal advice on that, but an appeal is likely on a number of grounds," he said.

Landowners in the Marlborough Sounds enclave of Wairangi Bay, in inner Okiwi Bay, went to court over plans by a private forestry partnership headed by Mr Thornley to close Bill Bryants Rd off French Pass Rd. The road has served the community for 50 years, providing access to the properties it crosses.

Mr Thornley built a new road into Wairangi Bay to serve a new subdivision at Squally Cove. He then asked users to contribute towards the new road's $300,000 construction cost.

Justice Jillian Mallon has now made an order granting access over Bill Bryants Rd.

Nelson lawyer John Fitchett said on the 11 plaintiffs' behalf yesterday that they were "very pleased" with the decision.

Many of the landowners are from Nelson and have long-standing connections to the area, including one whose family built Bill Bryants Rd, which stretches several kilometres to the head of Wairangi Bay and to a point along neighbouring Oyster Bay.

"Although it was expensive and stressful, by carrying on with the litigation the landowners have now ensured that the vehicular access which had been available for Wairangi Bay residents for the last 50 years will now be available for all landowners ‘forever'," Mr Fitchett said.

He said last year that access to Bill Bryants Rd had been deterred by a gate with a sign warning people using the road that they were trespassing, and advising them to use the new, alternative route further up the road.

Mr Fitchett said part of Bill Bryants Rd was formed on legal road, but some of it was not.

The road crosses a strip of land owned by the Squally Cove Forestry Partnership. Mr Fitchett said last year the partnership gave notice it planned to close the road to all who used it, and that the instruction to close the road seemed to have come from Mr Thornley.

Mr Thornley, who lives at Squally Cove and is forest manager of the partnership, said last year he had not personally given the instruction to close the road.

A resource consent hearing in 2007 for the company behind the subdivision development at Squally Cove, Frog Investments, said the application would not take away Bill Bryants Rd.

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Mr Fitchett said yesterday the plaintiffs' success meant that none would now be forced to pay towards a roading system being operated for private profit.

- Nelson

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