A Northland community is up in arms about an electric vehicle charging station, installed five years ago, after the landowner requested it to be removed from their property.
The Tutukaka community is in a dispute over an EV charging station located behind Schnappa Rock Restaurant, near the waterfront, because the landowners say it would cause safety issues in the confined space behind the cafe.
Northpower had installed the charging station five years ago which was approved by the leaseholder, Jeroen Jongejans, at that time.
Six months ago, Jongejans' lease ended and he acquired the neighbouring land for his business. He says all but 20cm of the charging station were now on his property, and he'd be happy for it to be moved across.
Landowner Ray Barrell objected, however, saying they had the right of way over the property and that the charging station was installed without legal consent in the first place.
"We were very grateful when Northpower contacted us and asked to install an EV charging station," Jongejans said.
"Initially, there was no problem at all. It worked really well, and it was a great asset for our community. That's why we're making a stand now. We don't want to lose our charging station. Everyone would win if could move it 20cm across."
Barrell who had contacted Northpower and asked them to remove the charging station said he was concerned about the safety issues caused by charging car parking in the spot.
"It's a highly congested area with trucks and cars with boat trailers – there's not much space. There's a turn-around area hard up to the charging station. It's a services lane used by trucks to unload produce for Schnappa Rock."
He said the space wasn't designed as a parking lot but a service lane, and the charging station would obstruct access to their land, even if it was moved by 20cm.
"It has no use for the community in its current location. I think a charging station is really good for Tutukaka, but it needs to be in a place that is accessible for everyone," Barrell said.
The Tutukaka EV station is a 30km drive from Whangārei where electric vehicle owners can charge their cars at nine spots. Several private EV stations offer public access in closer vicinity, the nearest is only 12km from Tutukaka.
Only last year, Whangārei was named the most electric vehicle friendly-town in New Zealand at the EVworld NZ Champions Award with Northland registering the highest per capita uptake of EVs in the country.
Northpower has been providing free power to the Tutukaka EV charging stations as part of a general promotion of the uptake of EV technology.
Initially, the EV station was to be removed yesterday, but the company decided to organise a meeting instead in an effort to work with the community to solve the issue.
A resident launched an online petition to "Save the Tutukaka EV Charger" which has more than 200 signatures. The topic is also widely discussed on social media platforms.
Schnappa Rock business owner Nick Keene said while the area around the charging was usually busy, delivery drivers had never brought any issues to his attention.
"It would hate to see the charging station being lost to Tutukaka. It attracts visitors and brings people into the restaurant. I hope we can get our heads together to reach some sort of compromise that suits everyone."
Northpower hasn't been able to identify a new site for the EV charging station yet. A company spokesman said Northpower was happy to work with residents on options to re-locate the station.
"This could include gifting the charger to them and allowing them to arrange their own installation at a location where a local property owner can provide public access," he said.