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A lifestyle block owner will have to pay more than $80,000 for illegally cutting a path through a sea cliff so his children could walk down to the beach.

Franklin man Bryce Parsons has put his home up for auction to pay for the damage - which a judge said looked as though a large slice had been cut out of a living organism and its entrails spilled out on the foreshore.

Judge Fred McElrea told Parsons in the Auckland District Court that it was a serious piece of damage to public land in a very sensitive situation with a high degree of recklessness.

He fined the 43-year-old $20,000 and ordered him to pay $1260 in costs.

Parsons already faces a $60,000 bill for fixing the damage to the coastal esplanade next to his Glenbrook Beach Rd property.

He pleaded guilty to charges brought under the Resource Management Act and the Reserves Act by the Franklin District Council.

The Auckland Regional Council also prosecuted him for depositing some soil from the cutting carved into the 10m cliff on to the beach below.

Judge McElrea said it was offending at the high end of prosecutions under the act, and he set the starting point of the fine at $70,000.

But he reduced the fine to $20,000 because Parsons would be spending $60,000 on remedying the damage, was remorseful, made an early guilty plea and was a first offender.

The judge issued an enforcement order to make sure the damage was repaired.

Franklin Mayor Mark Ball said he agreed with the judge's comment that the earthworks had caused a significant amount of damage.

"It was severe offending and the worst the Franklin District Council has seen. It left us no possible option but to prosecute."

Parsons said yesterday he had not known he needed consents before making the cut from his property overlooking the Manukau Harbour.

"We have three kids, and they want to get down to the beach. It was just for access from the property."

The esplanade was inaccessible to anyone because it was covered in gorse and tree stumps, and the coast was already compromised with accessways for boat ramps.

"It's been a stressful time ... If I had known it was a serious breach of the Resource Management Act I would never consider going there."

So far, he had spent $38,000 on restoration, including earthmoving contractors, engineering consultants and council permit fees.

Parsons said the cost of fines and repairs forced him to put his new home up for auction on April 10.

"Otherwise I'd be putting $100,000 on the mortgage."