Here's a tip for those inclined to dump household rubbish in a public place - don't leave your name, address, and photo in the mess.

The stark contrast between the stinking piles tipped on to the driveway and the stately Ferndale House affronted the good folk of Mt Albert.

"It just shocked the neighbourhood," said Josie Wilson, manager of a nearby boarding house. "I've been here 14 years and I hadn't seen anything like it."

Wilson's grandchildren like to play in the parklike grounds and sometimes she sits under the big trees with a thermos of tea. "It's a nice place," she said.

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It may not seem a big deal, but it really is, said Wilson. "If they are going to dump rubbish here then they are going to do it anywhere. It's a heritage building. Something needs to be done about it."

In the rubbish Wilson and friends found a student photo ID and a copy of a birth certificate for a woman now in her 20s. Addressed to the same woman was a recent bail notice that recorded she faced charges for shoplifting, theft, burglary, fraud and failing to appear in court.

Wilson has shown the documents to reporters from the community online site Mt Albert Inc and to the Herald and forwarded copies to an Auckland Council officer.

Josie Wilson with documents retrieved from rubbish illegally dumped at Ferndale. Photo / Phil Taylor
Josie Wilson with documents retrieved from rubbish illegally dumped at Ferndale. Photo / Phil Taylor

The Ferndale incident was part of a surge in illegal dumping during the holidays.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff got upset by it, having come across leaking oil drums dumped on an Ardmore roadside on his way to the office. He took to Facebook and recently announced $200,000 had been allocated for a new hotline, more enforcement staff and to double to 14 the number of dedicated CCTV cameras.

The council owns Ferndale House on behalf of ratepayers. Its head of Waste Solutions, Ian Stupple, said it was policy not to comment on current investigations.

So the Herald made its own inquiries.

We visited the Henderson Valley address the bail document stated the woman must live at (unless she agreed a change with authorities).

There we met Lily Chen, one of the property's owners. The property was being readied to let.

The previous tenants, Chen said, were evicted around Christmas due to rent arrears and left an almighty mess. Bills for tidying the house and section, including rubbish removal, totalled $2970.
"So much rubbish," said Chen. "My house was like a rubbish area. So I am very, very sad."

The property was let through a property management company and so Chen didn't recognise the name on the documents in the rubbish.

But the person whose name was on the tenancy agreement did.
"She is my kids' aunty," the tenant told the Herald.
She, too, was unhappy. She is facing at least some of the cost of the clean-up despite, she said, having left the property weeks before her flatmates were evicted.

As for the woman named in the documents, the tenant had heard she had been arrested.

Further inquiries led the Herald to a courtroom at the Waitemata District Court on Tuesday.

Standing in the dock was the woman who eight years ago was the healthy, vibrant girl pictured on the student ID in the Ferndale rubbish. She looked wan, tired. She yawned.

Her mother, smartly dressed and groomed, looked on anxiously from the public gallery.

Some charges were dropped, she pleaded guilty to several others including three new ones (theft and trespass) and a date in May was allocated for her to be sentenced.

Outside court, the Herald caught up with the woman. She dragged on a cigarette and looked intently at the photograph of the offending pile and declared her innocence. "I don't even have a car," she said.

She told of contractors removing rubbish including some of her stuff from the flat at the time they were evicted.

The property management company hired a big skip (from a reputable company) and a contractor who spent days cleaning up the section. The contractor was emphatic he knew nothing of the rubbish at Ferndale House.

"I've been doing this job for eight years ... I know better than to go doing something stupid like that and getting yourself unstuck for life with a good reliable customer.

"The house occupants were coming and going taking stuff away. It was a pig sty."

The council had been in touch with some of the people the Herald spoke to but not yet the contractor or the woman.

Solid evidence can be hard to come by, as the council knows.

Last year it took only two cases of illegal dumping to court. The council wants the public to ring its hotline (0800 NO DUMP) with vehicle registrations, photos and descriptions of people seen in the act.

Trash Town

Illegally dumped rubbish is a blight on our towns and cities.

The New Zealand Herald has launched an online locator map of sites being targeted by illegal dumpers. The Herald will provide the information reported here to the relevant councils.

Click here to see our Rubbish Dumping Map