Court ruling ends truck sign-wrangle

By Imran Ali

Brian May challenged Whangarei District Council's decision to impound his truck.Photo/File
Brian May challenged Whangarei District Council's decision to impound his truck.Photo/File

A court order has paved the way for Whangarei District Council to dispose of a businessman's truck it seized for displaying advertising signs on a public road.

Owner of Magic Tyres and Mags in Whangarei, Brian May, waged a one-man battle against the local authority over signs it claimed was illegal.

The council impounded his Isuzu truck in January last year before asking Whangarei District Court for a forfeiture order to recoup its cost of impounding the vehicle, worth $1500, which stood at $3270 as at July 30.

The scrap between Mr May and the council started over advertising signs atop the truck on his former business premises on Okara Drive, which the council said breached local bylaws.

Apart from signs advertising the products his business was selling and their prices, Mr May had also displayed signs on his truck calling for council chief executive Mark Simpson to stand down.

The council considered the signs to be temporary signs on private land that contravened provisions of clause three of the bylaws which Mr May claimed wasn't in force at the time his truck was seized.

In a judgment delivered this week, Judge Keith de Ridder ruled that the signs were not temporary but that the truck was parked in a public place in breach of the council's Signs Control Bylaw 2005.

He said the council's drafting of the bylaw in relation to temporary signs was "clumsy and confusing" and that five discreet types of signs were permitted such as sale/lease, direction, community events, elections and proposed projects.

The signs' vehicle did not fall into any of the five categories for temporary signs, he said.

Judge de Ridder rejected the argument that because the land on which Mr May's truck was parked was owned by someone other than the council, it could not be classified as "public place".

He didn't make an order for the disposal of the truck.

Council group manager district living, Paul Dell, said the court concluded that the truck was on a public space and therefore it breached the bylaw.

"In this situation, the LGA (Local Government Act) 2002 allows council to dispose of the truck, after giving the owner notice but without requiring a court order."

Mr Dell said the council had discussed the matter with Mr May who would decide if he wanted the truck back.

Mr May didn't wish to comment on the judgment.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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