A Te Puke builder who charged a mum and her two children rent to live in his implement shed, then tried to hide the arrangement, had a prior conviction for similar offending, court documents show.
Self-employed builder John Murray Addison has been fined after pleading guilty in the Environment Court at Tauranga to contravening a 2010 enforcement order not to use the shed as accommodation without resource consent.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council charge related to Addison allowing an implement shed on a lifestyle property to be used for accommodation between December 20, 2021 and November 13 last year.
In his November sentencing decision released to the Bay of Plenty Times, chief Environment Court Judge David Kirkpatrick said Addison was granted consent in May 2008 to build an implement shed on the Fairview Pl property.
The 2.99ha property planted in avocados is zoned rural and surrounded by orchards and other rural activities. Plans showed a split-level shed with a 167sq m floor area, lunchroom, toilet and handbasin.
Addison said it would not be lived in but the following year the council received a complaint and prosecuted him for allowing it to be used as a dwelling.
He was convicted and fined $7682 and given the enforcement order.
Another complaint was made to the council in September last year.
According to Judge Kirkpatrick’s notes, Addison had not obtained resource consent for the shed to be used as a dwelling but a council enforcement officer visiting on October 18 last year found a mother and her two children were living in the shed.
Inside was a kitchen and lounge area with laundry hanging on a drying rack, numerous household items, blinds on the windows and a TV aerial on the roof. Outside, there were children’s bikes, a bodyboard and a car registered to the tenant.
According to the decision, Addison initially told the council officer the shed was used as a "smoko room” and storage for building gear, however, when pressed he confirmed someone moved in the previous Sunday.
The defendant later claimed he thought the shed could now be used as a dwelling after reading some pamphlets issued by the council about allowing extra housing on properties.
He confirmed the woman living in the shed was paying him rent but wrote to the council the next day saying the tenant had been given notice and the shed would remain empty. According to the sentencing notes, Addison’s defence said a month’s use would generate income of $1600.
Addison also revealed his son had lived in the shed for 12 months at some stage.
Judge Kirkpatrick said Addison’s culpability was “high”.
“He was aware the shed could not be used as a dwelling due to the previous prosecution, and the enforcement order made in 2010.”
The judge noted the defendant had “attempted to conceal the illegal use of the shed”, and failed to check with the council about the contents of the pamphlets.
He said the need for a specific deterrence was “significant in this case” given Addison’s previous conviction and allowing the shed to be used as a dwelling at least twice since the enforcement order was made.
“There is also the need for general deterrence for property owners, who are tempted to use buildings as dwellings illegally, ignoring District Plans rules, and to discourage members of the community from ignoring court orders.”
Judge Kirkpatrick convicted Addison and fined him $28,875, taking into account his prior conviction and early guilty plea.
The judge said 90 per cent of the fine must be paid to the council, and ordered Addison to pay $130 court costs and a solicitor’s fee of $113.
Sandra Conchie is a senior journalist at the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post who has been a journalist for 24 years. She mainly covers police, court and other justice stories, as well as general news. She has been a Canon Media Awards regional/community reporter of the year.