Property owner ordered to clear 120 car wrecks from 'junkyard' home in Hope
A pair of property owners from Hope, near Nelson, have been tasked with clearing their land of more than 120 dilapidated cars.
An interim decision by the Environment Court has sided with the Tasman District Council as to whether storing a private collection of "vintage" cars was compliant with council planning rules.
Edward and Judith Ashton own rural land just outside of Nelson, and have been taken to court by the Tasman District Council following complaints from the community about their "junkyard" storage.
The Environment Court has released Judge Brian Dwyer's oral decision made at the end of May, but there are still terms to be negotiated between the Ashtons and the council.
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The decision revealed as many as 141 cars in various states of disrepair were on their Haycock Rd property at any one time, covering just under a hectare of land.
According to the decision, Edward Ashton, who lives at the property and is a motor engineer, denied his property was a "wrecker's yard" and told the court the cars had been collected so he could carry out his hobby of vehicle restoration.
But the council said Ashton's storage of cars were an "industrial" activity not permitted on rural land, according to the council's Resource Management Plan.
Ashton's lawyer Camilla Owen submitted that because there was no commercial gain from Ashton's restoration of the vehicles, nor were the activities attached to an industry, it shouldn't be classed "industrial" activity.
However, Judge Dwyer said, "industrial activity means the use of land for the primary purpose of storage of goods.... [it] does not require there to be an economic or commercial element to that storage."
Judge Dwyer said because the vehicles weren't in regular use it constituted storage, and this could be classed as industrial activity.
He said the impact it had on the amenity of the neighbourhood meant the activities had an adverse effect on the environment.
He said while Ashton may have intended to restore the vehicles,storing them in paddocks "in such numbers gives the distinct impression of a wrecker's yard or dumping ground".
"The activity of storing a large number of dilapidated vehicles in unkempt conditions in a rural or rural residential area and in close proximity to neighbours, is one which I consider a reasonably objective member of the public is highly likely to find offensive and objectionable..." Judge Dwyer said.
Judge Dwyer ruled that inoperative vehicles without current registration cannot be stored on the property. He said the Ashtons were able to keep their sheds, but couldn't use them for vehicle storage unless a resource consent was obtained.
The Ashtons are now responsible for finding a suitable new location to store the vehicles, and ensuring any new storage site complies with council restrictions.
Discussions between the council and Ashton were ongoing, particularly regarding the timeframe of clearing the land.
The Ashton family declined to comment on the ruling at this time.
"We have spoken to our lawyer and as the ruling has not been finalised we do not wish to make a comment at this time," Judith Ashton said.
Tasman District Council spokesperson Chris Choat said about 96 vehicles had been identified as needing to be removed, and the council wanted them gone within six months.
"We are close to resolution on this matter," Choat said.
"It would not have been possible without the support of local residents."