Auckland Council is considering a regional crackdown on property owners whose homes are a nuisance and a public health threat - whether it's due to rats nesting in unkempt vegetation, smelly rubbish, or feeding of wild animals.
Overgrown sections are second only to signs as the hottest topic of complaint calls. Under a proposed bylaw, messy neighbours could be charged up to $20,000.
Send your complaints, and pictures, about nuisance properties to: email@example.com.
"We are talking about massively overgrown properties where there's six-foot high grass and multiple rubbish in the yard and harbouring vermin and risking neighbours' health," said Councillor Calum Penrose, who is chairman of the regulatory and bylaws committee which will draft the new bylaw for public consultation.
"In the past, under the legacy councils' rules, we have struggled to address problems and we need a bylaw which has some teeth in it to deal with a particular property when we have an issue in front of us.
"I get calls from people saying 'My property is devalued, because next door the landlord doesn't care about his' and this bylaw will bring clear standards of accountability and responsibility."
A person would not be allowed to cause a nuisance by storing material, debris and refuse and feeding wild birds/fowl and feral animals, or allowing a property to become so overgrown with vegetation that it harbours pests or vermin.
In addition to setting consistent minimum standards for private property maintenance and requirements on the occupiers, the bylaw would make owners of derelict or unoccupied buildings secure them to keep out the public for safety.
The council's People's Panel survey - which is carried out monthly and residents who sign up receive by email - of 4184 Aucklanders showed a third were concerned about overgrown sections.
In 2013, 1500 complaints were made in the former Auckland City area about overgrown sections - 525 were about rubbish dumped and 26 were about noise and smells from wild animals. In 2012, Auckland City had 1768 complaints about overgrown sections.
Auckland City and the North Shore are currently covered by an environmental protection bylaw but changes are needed to make it more effective, says a report by planning policy staff.
The five other former council areas lacked adequate and consistent regulation to require land owners to abate the nuisance.
A bylaw would allow the council to prosecute a property owner in all areas under the Local Government Act, instead of the Health Act, which would give an incentive to comply through mean greater penalties, for example, a fine of up to $20,000 instead of a maximum $500.
The Local Government Act let a council adopt a bylaw to protect the public from nuisance or protect health and safety, but an unsightly or unkempt property did not meet that criteria.
Auckland fire safety officers were concerned about homeless people in a building which had been torched at least three times in the last few years, the report said.
Early this year, an unsecured property in south Auckland became a dumping ground for refuse and for youths to wander in and out of at night, often drinking alcohol.
Last year, seven complaints came from the Manukau area, which had no regulation to deal with them. Council efforts to deal with complaints were often unsuccessful and involved costly and time consuming legal proceedings, said the report.
What is being proposed?
A bylaw to protect Auckland residents from "nuisance" neighbouring homes, or avoid risks to public health and safety.
How will it do this?
Require a landowner or occupier to abate any nuisance and could fine them up to $20,000.
What nuisance will it deal with?
Storage of material, lack of maintenance or accumulated animal excrement caused by feeding wild or feral animals.
What rules exist to deal with nuisance on private property?
Auckland and North Shore have protection bylaws that need changing. Five former council areas have none, so a bylaw would make things uniform.