Hamilton City Council has raised concerns with government agencies about what it alleges are significant health and safety and animal welfare issues at an increasingly popular bird park on the city's border that it needs to buy a piece of for a new road.
But the owners of Shaw Bird Park say the city council's latest move is just another attempt from the council to force them into selling 1.9ha of their land to so they can put a road, cycle track, footpath and filtration pond through their property.
Hamilton City Council and Murray and Margaret Shaw who own the 50ha property on Hall Rd, south of Hamilton, have been in an ongoing dispute over the council acquiring part of the land under the Public Works Act to build the east-west arterial road as part of the Southern Links network aimed at supporting residential growth in the area.
The two parties are currently going through mediation with the next meeting planned for August 20.
The council has acquired the majority of land it requires for the road and this week confirmed it had purchased a piece of land that sits between the two pieces it requires from the Shaws and has various plantings and works associated with the park.
Earlier this year Hamilton City Council leaders wrote to Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation raising significant concerns about unconsented ponds, the safety of the dams and structures within the waterways, water quality contamination risks and the welfare of caged birds it had noticed as part of its acquisition process to purchase part of its property, letters obtained under the Local Government Official Information Act reveal.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs told Waikato Regional Council's chief executive Vaughan Payne there was "a real concern that the current structures are unconsented, causing environmental damage and are potentially dangerous to human health".
He also criticised the council's passive approach as the regulatory body for natural waterways and said it was not reasonable for WRC to turn a blind eye to existing Resource Management Act non-compliance on the basis that HCC would have to apply for new consents if it acquired the land as part of its Southern Links project.
Briggs said HCC would not accept any responsibility for existing non-compliance and would not be burdened with securing resource consents for any existing unlawful activity if it acquired the land.
"This is not a matter between the (Hamilton City) council and the current property owners – it's a question of protecting the interests of Hamilton's ratepayers by seeking guidance and clarification from the regulatory authority," he said.
"It is not for Hamilton ratepayers to subsidise the remediation of private works..."
However, Payne dismissed the concerns and told the Herald the council had not provided it with sound evidence or complaint that would allow staff to reasonably and lawfully enter the private property.
It was the regional council's advice that none of the weirs/dams established 40 or 50 years ago and were not classed as large dams so did not require consents under the Building Act.
He claimed it was a waste of staff time investigating whether appropriate paperwork was in place for structures built half a century ago and more sense to wait for the plans for the significant roading development to be confirmed.
"In reality, this is an issue between HCC and Shaw Bird Park."
In May, Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate alerted DoC's director of operations to concerns about the welfare of the hundreds of birds including moreporks and kereru being kept in cages on the property and questioned whether the activities were properly licensed.
A DoC spokesperson said staff visited the property in July and notified the Shaws that they needed a Wildlife Act permit to keep the protected birds and was working with them to get the best outcomes for the wildlife.
The park held valid permits for the game birds such as ducks and pheasants, but was now in the process of applying for a permit to keep the indigenous native species - moreporks, tui, NZ pigeons and white-faced herons with DoC's help.
But Murray Shaw said the council was just trying to wear them down so they would sell them the land which he and wife Margaret had been refusing to do for at least two years.
"They are trying to do anything to make us move out of here."
Shaw said all the weirs on the farm were built more than 30 years ago prior to needing consents and claimed they only had about 20 birds.
After hearing from DoC, they were now in process of filling in the application for a permit for the protected birds.
The couple, both in their 70s, have lived at the property for more than 30 years but only opened the 50ha property up to the public to visit at no charge for the past two years.
Shaw said in those two years there have been no incidents at the park and they have huge public support including a petition with 23,000 signatures.
"They are just trying to wear us down and that we are going to go. Right from the start I've said this property isn't for sale," he said.
"It's not about money, It's about keeping the park."
However, Briggs said the Shaws were fully involved when their property was designated for a new minor arterial road during the Southern Links process and had not opposed the road in their submission.
The council was continuing to work with the Shaws to reach an agreement for the portions of property required for the designation.
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