The Far North District Council has been accused of using "underhand and overly-aggressive tactics" to buy a new facility to replace its controversial dog pound in Horeke.
But the council has defended its actions, saying it entered into "open negotiations" with the kennel owners via their legal representative.
The council recently bought the Melka Boarding Kennels in Kaikohe as a permanent place to house impounded dogs after nearly three years using a temporary shelter at Horeke.
The property was advertised with three-quarters of an acre of land, a renovated four-bedroom house and kennel facility with two exercise areas and a cottage for small dogs.
The council paid a market rate for the property below the asking price of $680,000. The negotiations included a meeting with the owners to "clarify the council's use of the Public Works Act Notice of Desire".
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The Bay of Islands Watchdogs group said they are "overjoyed" at the purchase - which will provide better conditions for dogs and long sought-after public access – however they claim the way the council went about it was underhanded.
"We've been lobbying for them to look at Melka Kennels for years and are overjoyed they've bought it," Watchdogs spokeswoman Leonie Exel said.
"These kennels are way better [than the temporary one], they're made for public access, they're temperature controlled and there are lots of places to walk and exercise dogs.
"For the sake of the dogs, it's a great relief they'll be somewhere which is much kinder to them and compliant with welfare standards."
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But using the Public Works Act in any form was "a disgrace" and would be perceived as council bullying, Exel said.
"Council tried to hide the fact that they took step one of using the Public Works Act. They started the process which meant that the vendor couldn't sell it to anyone else.
"They need to start looking at whether they collaborate with the community or be adversarial with us. It's time for them to listen instead using their legal muscle against residents."
However, council district services general manager Dean Myburgh said the council entered into "open negotiations" with the kennel owners via their legal representative.
A meeting was also arranged with the owners to discuss aspects of the sale and purchase and to clarify the council's use of the Public Works Act Notice of Desire, he said.
"[The notice was] intended only as an indication of council's bone fide intent to purchase the property at a fair, market-related price after the property owners expressed doubts the council was serious," Myburgh said.
"This is a commonly used mechanism and in no way represents inappropriate action on council's part.
"At no stage did the council attempt to compulsorily purchase this property by using the Public Works Act."
Whangārei based barrister Julian Dawson – who specialises in local government and resource management – said the Notice of Desire is the start of a formal process under the Act.
This notifies the landowner the council wants to acquire the land for a public work, he said.
"It first requires the council to go into discussions with the landowner on a good faith basis to try to purchase the property at market value by agreement.
"If that process is unsuccessful then the council can compulsorily acquire the land. Then compensation is paid, which either has to be agreed with the owner or they can dispute the compensation figure through the Land Valuation Tribunal."
Melka Kennels owner Andrea Tansey and husband Terry established the kennel on Ngapuhi Rd in 2000.
The couple are moving to Mangawhai to be closer to family and have set up a doggy homestay under the same name, Andrea Tansey said.
"We're happy to be moving on and starting again. We've enjoyed being up here but it's time to move on," she said.
The couple did not wish to comment on the property transaction.
Myburgh said the purchase would be completed next month and the facility upgraded to meet national animal welfare code requirements.
It would be open after the upgrades were completed in June.
The kennel will house up to 24 dogs and the nearby house will be used for staff offices, reception and equipment storage.
Myburgh admitted the temporary Horeke pound – which was opened in 2018 on leased land - "had significant limitations for both staff and the public".
"Unlike the temporary Horeke facility, this new animal shelter will be open to the public so dog owners can view and identify impounded dogs, and dogs we are offering up for adoption can also be viewed.
"This new site also means our animal management team will have a safe and permanent workplace that we can improve and expand as required."
The council pounds in Horeke and Kaitaia have been dogged with issues over the years including serious concerns over animal welfare.
The council bought land at Ngāwhā in 2017 to build a southern area animal shelter to replace the Horeke shelter.
This was shortly after Sue Dennis resigned having operated the southern dog pound at her Okaihau property for nearly a decade.
The council also planned to build a new pound in Kaitaia. Both shelters were meant to be completed by last June.
But due to a cost blow-out of millions of dollars, council had to go back to the drawing board with councillors asking staff to come up with cheaper options.
Myburgh said the temporary Horeke shelter will now be closed and dismantled and all equipment that can be reused will be redeployed to Melka Kennels or to the shelter near Kaitaia.
Construction would start on the Bonnetts Rd shelter after building contracts are signed, he said.
The land at Ngāwhā would now be considered for other uses related to growth and development opportunities around Kaikohe.
In a social media post the Tanseys thanked their customers for supporting the business and "entrusting us with your fur kids".
"It has been a fun ride but time for a change."