Environment Court decision on Roseneath dispute to be scrutinised

1 October 2015

Wellington’s Acting Mayor, Justin Lester, says the City Council intends to carry out an Environment Court order for the demolition of a disputed ‘play structure’ on a Roseneath property.

Councillor Lester says the court issued a decision last week that confirmed that the wooden structure did not comply with rules in the District Plan.

Pending the expiration of the appeal period later this month, it is the Council’s intention to formally instruct the owner of the structure to pull it down as soon as possible.

He says the court decision is the culmination of a “terribly unfortunate, unpleasant and protracted” dispute between neighbours over privacy issues. Under the previous interpretation of the district plan, Council planners had concluded that they could not stop the structure from being built because it met the rules of the District Plan.

“Our planners, like most observers, agreed that the structure was an ugly imposition that blocked a great view. Unfortunately rules are rules – and while the District Plan works well in 99% of cases, there will always be cases like the Roseneath one where the results are to no-one’s satisfaction.”

The Council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee Chair, Cr Andy Foster, has asked Council officials for a briefing at next Thursday’s committee meeting on the Roseneath saga and on the implications of the Environment Court decision.

He says one of the implications is that the important height to boundary rules in the District Plan – which exist to ensure property owners are not unduly shaded from the sun by structures on adjoining properties – have been called into question. This could have an impact on property owners wishing to build on sloping sections.

“The ruling means that the home occupied by Mr and Mrs Aitchison, if built now, would not comply with the District Plan because it exceeds the sunlight planes.”

The Council’s City Planning Manager, Warren Ulusele, says he and other planning staff and lawyers had attempted to resolve the situation in discussions with Mr Aitchison before the Environment Court hearing but the Council’s offer to jointly tackle the situation in the court was rejected by Mr Aitchison.

“Everyone agrees that the structure was not a great outcome, but we must also be mindful of applying rules consistently for all property owners. It is not in the best interest of our city to have the Council unnecessarily intervening, or adding costs, for owners wanting to undertake legitimate development of their own property. 

“We will review our approach to the District Plan and our interpretation of the rules relating to views and sunlight access planes - the court decision has significant implications for the rights of property owners to build on sloping sites where other houses are close by.”