No love lost between neighbours

By Joseph Aldridge

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A Gate Pa man is at the end of his tether after years of unsuccessfully trying to get the Tauranga City Council to clean up his neighbour's property.

Gary Lochhead said he was forced to build a 2.2-metre-high boundary fence to block neighbour Greg Charters' "unpermitted" sheds from encroaching on his property.

However, Mr Lochhead claimed the fence wasn't high enough to stop a sheet of roofing plastic blowing off the top of Mr Charters' shed complex, into Mr Lochhead's kitchen window. The flying roofing plastic cracked two windows, dented a car and almost collected Mr Lochhead as he walked out his front door.

Mr Lochhead couldn't get Mr Charters to take responsibility for the damage, so he sent $1000 of repair bills to the council, which promptly sent them back.

The incident last year is among a long list of complaints made by Mr Lochhead regarding his neighbour's property. Mr Charters' sheds harboured rats, were an "eyesore" and a danger to his family and property, Mr Lochhead said.

Frustrated by council's apparent lack of action, Mr Lochhead wrote an exasperated email to Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby in April this year, threatening to lodge a complaint with the Department of Building and Housing over the matter.

Mr Crosby replied a week later saying council officers had met Mr Charters and negotiated the removal of sheds and motor vehicles from his property.

If the matter was not resolved within 14 working days, the council would "instigate legal proceedings" against Mr Charters, Mr Crosby said.

Eight months later, Mr Lochhead said nothing had changed and he had a message for Mr Crosby - "enforce your bylaws".

"If he lived here he wouldn't put up with it, no way. Just enforce your bylaws, that's all I'm asking.

"I know the bylaws, if it's 10 square metres it's classed as a shed that's got to have a permit."

When contacted by the Bay of Plenty Times, Mr Crosby said he understood Mr Lochhead's frustrations but the council was trying to work through the issues "without being overly bureaucratic".

"The non-compliance in my view is at the lower end of the scale so there's no point in taking Mr Charters to court or attempting to place any enforcement action on him."

Instead the council was trying to support Mr Charters to clean up the property.

Mr Crosby said he had lived beside difficult neighbours before and if he were in Mr Lochhead's position he would take a more "charitable approach".

"I would take into account the age of the person, his health, his ability to actually remedy the situation and I'd actually offer to go and help him myself."

Council customer and environmental services group manager Peter Frawley said the council first received a complaint about a solid fuel heater in a carport on Mr Charters' property in 2003.

"We have worked with the property owner since that complaint to remove the unauthorised buildings.

"This required the removal of a large amount of vehicle parts from the buildings so they could then be demolished.

"He has removed several of the buildings, and tried to ensure that the remaining buildings are safe."

Since May 2011, the council's senior building officer had visited Mr Charters' property 52 times to ensure progress was being made.

Mr Charters had removed all the vehicle parts and pulled down several unpermitted buildings, although there was still a number of illegal buildings, Mr Frawley said.

Mr Crosby said council officers had found it very difficult to contact Mr Charters as he did not have a phone and was often out.

The Bay of Plenty Times tried twice this week to contact Mr Charters for comment on this story. Both attempts were unsuccessful.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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