Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Man falls into waterway during protest

The construction site on Hillcrest Road, Northcote where a man was injured after falling into a stormwater drain. Photo / Chris Loufte
The construction site on Hillcrest Road, Northcote where a man was injured after falling into a stormwater drain. Photo / Chris Loufte

A man admitted to hospital after falling into a waterway on the North Shore today has been in a longstanding battle with Auckland Council.

Terry Chang, 64, was protesting against work to widen the stormwater drain that runs alongside his Evelyn Place property in Hillcrest.

Neighbour Freddie Bess said Mr Chang had been up a kauri tree, banging a pot and shouting loudly at workers, to "protect his trees".

However, police said workers were not there to remove any kauri trees, and Mr Chang had been throwing objects -- including a piece of wood -- at the staff.

When a security guard went to intervene, both men fell, and Mr Chang tumbled to the creek bed.

Tonight, Mr Chang was in a stable condition in hospital.

Ms Bess said her neighbour had been living at the property -- which is thickly covered in vegetation, including two kauri trees -- for some time.

"He was fighting for his rights and his soul. All he was trying to do was protect his trees."

Twelve neighbours in the area were told vegetation would need to be removed, Ms Bess said.

"Everyone but Terry accepted compensation. He said, 'I don't want this, I don't want this', but the council have gone ahead with their work."

Mr Chang's wife went back to Taiwan two days ago, Ms Bess said.

"She couldn't deal with the stress of having different people on her property every day and she was really worried about her husband.

"Now he doesn't have any family here, just flatmates."

Save Our Kauri spokeswoman Aprilanne Bonnar said she was horrified to hear about the incident.

"Terry loves his trees. He's been really stressed about all of this. He's a 64-year-old man ... It's heartbreaking that it's come to this."

Police said Mr Chang had been in an ongoing dispute with the council over the work, which is intended to prevent flooding.

Officers had been called to the area several times over the past few weeks, and several contractors and a security guard were on site this morning.

The incident was witnessed by several contractors and was filmed on a cellphone.

Police said they had taken statements from the guard and the other witnesses, who were co-operating fully with officers.

An investigation was ongoing and police could not comment on whether anyone would be charged.

- NZ Herald

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