Resident's protest sign libellous - SDC

STATING HIS CASE: Riverton man Kevin O'Connor is unhappy about the smoke and smell coming from a business behind his home.
STATING HIS CASE: Riverton man Kevin O'Connor is unhappy about the smoke and smell coming from a business behind his home.

A man complaining about smoke from his neighbour is now in hot water with Southland District Council for putting up a sign it says is libellous.

Riverton man Kevin O'Connor complained to the council about the smell wafting over his back fence from neighbouring business Ocean Shell about six months ago.

O'Connor said the council had not done enough to stop Ocean Shell from producing the smoke, which he said contained toxic chemicals and was affecting his health.

He put up a sign in his front yard that says: "Southland District Counsil Condones Cancerous Toxins From Ocean Shell that are Killing Neighbours [sic]".

O'Connor and Ocean Shell had been neighbours for more than 20 years but O'Connor had only had a problem with the smoke since retiring three years ago, he said.

Ocean Shell owners say they have worked closely with the council and complied with all restrictions or recommendations.

Council environmental health manager Michael Sarfaiti said he approached O'Connor about the sign and told him it was non-compliant with council bylaws.

It was also libellous against the council and against Ocean Shell, Sarfaiti said. He asked O'Connor to take the sign down but was refused.

He had referred the matter to the consent department at the council, Sarfaiti said.

Council compliance and consent officer Kelwyn Osborn said the council would work to resolve O'Connor's complaint before taking any further action about the sign.

"In this instance we think it's best handled by focusing on the complaint before addressing the sign."

Sarfaiti was dealing with O'Connor's complaint, and the owners of Ocean Shell were keen to deal with any issues, he said.

Sarfaiti said they agreed to install an extraction system, so that any smoke could be discharged at height, and were looking into a bio filter to treat any emissions.

He recommended they consult an air quality scientist from Environment Southland, which he understood they had done, he said. "They've been very co-operative from the start."

The work would be completed this winter, he said.

Environment Southland senior consents officer Roy Hammond said Ocean Shell had contacted him with questions about chimney heights. "I'm now looking at whether [the owners] require a consent for the emissions from [their] building," he said.

The Southland Times