Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Police called to neighbours' dispute at historic Titirangi homestead

Police were called to one of Auckland's most stunning and historic homesteads when a neighbour started felling native trees this week.

On one side of the dispute are forestry consultant Michael Duggan and his wife, Julie, who have just moved into the 101-year-old original Atkinson homestead on a peak above Titirangi illage, commanding spectacular 360-degree views from the Manukau Heads to Rangitoto.

On the other are English couple Ian and Michelle Costello, who gained resource consent on August 26 to chop down 12 native trees below the Atkinson homestead to build a two-storey house, which the Duggans say would destroy their view.

Retired landscape gardener Andrew Geddes, whose family owned the homestead from 1940 until a sale to the Duggans due to settle in November, said he and Duggan were both horrified when contractors started felling the trees on Thursday.

Duggan said emotions were "high" and there was an "altercation".

"Certainly there were words exchanged," he said.

A police spokesman said police attended an address at Rangiwai Rd on Thursday after receiving a report of an incident. However no one was arrested.

The 9072sq m property, Rangiwai, surrounds a 300sq m house built in 1915 for Henry Atkinson, a chief engineer of the Auckland Gas Company and a major Titirangi landowner whose statue stands outside Lopdell House. Its July 2014 rating valuation was $1.7 million.

Andrew Geddes, who still lives in one of the sections carved off the original property over the years, said his family sold the section owned by the Costellos about 20 years ago, expecting a house would be built there, but tried to protect their views by keeping two strips of land running down to the road on either side of the Costellos' land, enclosing it from three sides.

But plans show the roof of the Costellos' proposed house would be only 1.6m below the ridgeline where the Rangiwai homestead stands.

"It has been very greedy to build a house up this high. It completely destroys this property," Geddes said.

The resource consent shows the plan did not comply with planning rules on six counts, including height-to-boundary restrictions, appearing above the ridgeline when viewed from Rangiwai Rd and felling trees in a Significant Ecological Area.

However, the planners considered all these effects were minor so the application did not have to be notified to either neighbours or the public.

Waitakere Ranges Local Board member Greg Presland said he believed all resource consent applications should be notified, but current council practice did not publicly notify even a 10-storey apartment block proposed by the Ted Manson Foundation in Glen Eden that received resource consent last month.

Ian Costello said his house would comply with all conditions of the resource consent and he was not aware of any objections until contacted by the Herald on Sunday.

"This is the first I've heard of this issue at all," he said. "I am aware there was an incident. It was nothing to do with us."

- NZ Herald

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