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Environment Court Backs Council Actions

Environment Court Backs Council Actions To Enforce Property Cleanup In Mangere

Manukau City Council has welcomed the Environment Court's ruling on an illegally occupied property in Mona Avenue, Mangere. The enforcement order endorses the Council's earlier abatement order which has to date been ignored by the squatters on the site. This order requires the occupiers to clean up the property by removing offensive material including landfill, vehicles and buildings that have been dumped there illegally. Should the enforcement order be ignored, the occupiers will be in contempt of court and further action will follow.

The Council has for some time been taking action over the land which is on the waterfront at the end of Mona Avenue in Mangere. The site, and the behaviour of the occupiers, has produced numerous complaints from neighbouring property owners since 1996. The problem was minor initially but activity escalated substantially in 2000. Increasingly, old vehicles and large amounts of landfill were dumped there, buildings put up illegally, foreshore and seabed reclaimed and industrial activity has been taking place, also illegally.

City Manager Colin Dale says, "There has also been threatening and confrontational behaviour towards the next door neighbours and Council staff. The Council is fully sympathetic with the concerns raised by the neighbours. We are also concerned about the damage to the shoreline environment."

There are two separate elements to the dispute. Firstly, ownership and secondly, environmental concerns stemming from the dumping and the unauthorised reclaiming of foreshore.

The Council cannot act on the ownership issue as Manukau City Council does not own the site. The Crown is the owner, in particular Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). The Council cannot physically evict the squatters as it has no legal power to do so but it can act on the environmental concerns.

A claim of ownership of the site was made to the High Court by Nga Uri O Te Taou Tribe Incorporated and the Confederation of the United Tribes of Aotearoa. This group claims they have "total sovereign jurisdiction and unextinguished native title". The Court rejected the claim but the squatters still refused to leave. This process caused long delays in the Council's attempts to make progress in the matter.

Colin Dale says, "Initially the Council's approach was to use negotiation and persuasion to deal with what was, in the beginning, a small matter. That has not proven successful. The occupiers appeared to be co-operative and agreed to remove dumped material on a number of occasions over a period of years, and to stop any further illegal activity. They have failed to do so and the illegal activity has escalated.

"Having exhausted all avenues through negotiation, the Council began legal action but the process has been long and tortuous due to the actions and attitude of the land occupiers who are using every possible legal device to avoid action being taken against them."

The site is a narrow strip of Esplanade Reserve and a much larger area of reclaimed land. The entire land is zoned as Public Open Space in the Manukau City District Plan, reflecting the Council's intention to develop the land for public recreation usage at some stage in the future.

Ends

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