About 20 property owners in a Mosgiel subdivision must remove non-compliant structures after allegedly being dobbed in by a neighbour flying a drone.

A Dunedin City Council manager says it has been used "as a weapon" in a dispute showing "pettiness" between neighbours.

Last month, Richard Anderson, of Wingatui Rd, Mosgiel, said he was frustrated with his dealings with the council.

The council received a complaint about a pergola on his property which was too close to the boundary.


When council staff came, they identified several other structures he had to remove, including a firewood shelter on his fence boundary.

On Saturday, he was removing the last of his non-compliant structures as he had until yesterday to comply.

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Council community services general manager Simon Pickford confirmed it had more than 20 complaints about nearby addresses with Building Act non-compliances and most if not all resulted in the discovery of structures which had to be altered or removed.

It started with a neighbour issuing a complaint about Mr Anderson's property.

Council policy meant the property of the person who made the complaint was also checked and non-compliant structures were found there also, Pickford said.

This person later sent a list to the council of houses in the area with similarly non-compliant structures.

This was accompanied by photographs which seemed to have been taken from a drone.

A drone has been used to take a neighbourly dispute to new heights. Photo / Getty Images
A drone has been used to take a neighbourly dispute to new heights. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand law requires consent from owners of properties over which drones are being flown and drones are usually not allowed to be used within 4km of an aerodrome, which this area is.

The council considered whether or not this meant it could accept the information, given it was possibly gathered illegally, he said.

It decided it could act on the list of addresses.

The council did not seek out these properties, but had to act on complaints, Pickford said.

"The way this developed is a complaint between two neighbours. The council was brought in as a weapon, unfortunately."

It was an issue of "pettiness" between neighbours.

Anderson said the council had been "just terrible" to deal with and showed inconsistency in the way it enforced the rules.

He did not want to name the neighbour who complained.

"We've just got to get on with it and suck it up, unfortunately."

Nearby resident Tania Stevens said her daughter was sunbathing in their backyard earlier this year when a drone flew over.

"It hovered above for quite some time. I think she gave him the one-finger salute."

They later received a notice from the council stating their shed and pergola were both non-compliant and had to be moved or removed.

The behaviour of the neighbour who complained was "disappointing", she said.

"He's obviously got a vendetta with his own neighbours."

The way the council acted also annoyed the residents, she said.

She had sold the shed and was "taking a chainsaw" to the pergola.

Both she and Anderson said most of their structures were approved through the subdivision plans for Highland Park.

Highland Park developer Syd Brown could not be contacted for comment at the weekend.

- Otago Daily Times