Man who built illegal seawall wins fight against council and is told his wall can stay
An illegal seawall protecting two Hawke's Bay properties is allowed to stand after a council gives up an eight-year fight to have it removed or fixed.
Mark Lawrence built the wall to protect his family's Haumoana property, and his neighbour's, in 2009. He built it without obtaining a permit or a resource consent and has always insisted he had only maintained an existing wall on the site that had collapsed.
After a long legal wrangle with Hastings District Council he was slapped with a $3000 fine for breaching the Building Act and in 2012 the council gave him until March 2014 to repair the 40-metre-long wall or tear it down.
That deadline was later extended to May this year. His failure to comply could have seen Lawrence fined up to $200,000 and a further $20,000 for each day the wall was non-compliant.
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On Thursday the council told him the wall could stay as it was and no further enforcement action would be taken.
Council's group manager of planning and regulatory, John O'Shaughnessy said council had considered a number of issues "including the directions of Crown Law which include that council must consider whether there is public good in pursuing prosecution and whether the matter can be resolved with or without prosecution".
The wall posed no threat to the public "and that forcing it to be removed would put the property behind the wall at serious risk of erosion (including the potential that the house would be inundated)... there is no public interest in pursuing the matter", he said.
Council officers would continue to inspect the wall to ensure it posed no threat to public safety. If it did pose a threat, the council would take action, O'Shaughnessy said.
"Council does not believe this single case sets a precedent," he said.
Lawrence said the decision brought him little joy. He still lived in one of the properties. The other, which he purchased some years ago, was recently sold to neighbour John Bridgeman.
"All of this has had a huge impact on our family. The pressure has been immense. I wouldn't wish it on anyone," Lawrence said.
"There doesn't seem to be any consistency in how councils treat structures like mine. Sometimes they're allowed, sometimes they're not. You just need to look down the road to Clifton, where councils are building coastal protection without any consent.
We got picked on because we were the soft underbelly," he said.
The beach at Haumoana is eroding by 50cm horizontally and about 10cm vertically each year.
The 21 properties have capital values ranging from $20,000 to $310,000, with a combined total of close to $3.5 million. Their low values are due to their susceptibility to erosion and the impact this has on how and if they can be insured.
The two properties protected by Lawrence's seawall have a capital value of $270,000 and $340,000, according to the council.
Meanwhile Bridgeman, known locally as 'Hawke's Bay's King Canute', has applied for resource consent to build a stronger seawall to replace the one protecting his property.
Bridgeman also has plans to build an extended seawall to protect all 21 threatened sections, a move he expects to raise their value by $15 million.
This is still in the formation stage and he is yet to apply for consent.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Hastings District Council and Napier City Council have since 2014 been working on the "Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120" which included the Haumoana coastline. The strategy is consider coastal hazards risks and possible management options and has held a number of meetings and workshops at the affected communities this year.