A band of "ordinary" Waiheke neighbours has spent more than $1 million fighting one of the country's top vineyards in a long-running court battle involving allegations of drunkenness, public urinating and excessive noise.
And the retired pensioners are now considering suing Auckland Council to recoup the money, citing negligence and incompetence.
Cable Bay Vineyards has been slapped with enforcement orders to protect the area's quiet, rural amenity, issued abatement notices, prosecuted over its use of helicopters and is now back before the court for breaching noise limits.
Neighbours have lodged more than 60 noise complaints with Auckland Council about the vineyard since 2012 when owner Loukas Petrou built an unconsented restaurant extension and began serving alcohol to hundreds of patrons on the 4.5ha site's sloping lawn.
The neighbours, who will this month oppose the venue's liquor licence renewal, say their once tranquil lives have been destroyed by the constant racket of "enthusiastic" wine lovers.
They also claim their security had been compromised by boozed trespassers roaming on to their properties or urinating in flax bushes in full view of their homes.
The numerous complaints canvas rowdy outdoor wedding receptions, punters getting pickled on lawn beanbags, loud night-time music from the venue's PA system, and helicopters coming and going from the multimillion-dollar vino operation.
"It became party central," said retired pharmacist Michael Poland, whose Nick Johnstone Drive property borders the vineyard.
Poland said, in his opinion: "It was just one big beer garden, a lot of noise, a lot of drunken behaviour and no control over alcohol consumption.
"It's been quite traumatic. It's had an impact on our physical and mental health. I would not wish for anyone to go through what we've been through."
But the vineyard says it has done nothing wrong and is the victim of "malicious lies".
Petrou blamed the dispute on neighbours, who had gone to war with Cable Bay for their own agenda, he said.
"We have some neighbours actively trying to hurt and damage Cable Bay.
"We have not breached any laws."
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In 2017 Cable Bay Wines Ltd applied for a retrospective consent for an enclosed restaurant veranda and pizza oven it had built, use of the lawn for restaurant and dining purposes, and the installation of an acoustic wall.
The application was declined by independent commissioners, but the vineyard appealed the decision to the Environment Court, which has since issued strict enforcement orders to limit noise.
One of the orders prohibits weddings being held anywhere other than a designated reception area.
However, an Environment Court decision issued in June this year slates Cable Bay for ignoring the restriction by staging a wedding on the vineyard's helipad in February.
"Cable Bay appears to have blatantly disregarded the very clear directions from the court ... on where wedding ceremonies can take place.
"Intemperate weather does not constitute grounds for breaching a condition of resource consent."
The court said it was "troubled by the potential for ongoing and long-term disturbance of local residents, who we have found have been subject to unreasonable noise from Cable Bay activities over many years".
It has ordered the parties to draft strict new consent conditions to govern the vineyard's operations and protect neighbours' amenities. Previously proposed rules "fell well short", the court said.
Poland, 72, said Cable Bay had a track record of ignoring legal obligations and thumbing its nose at both the council and courts.
Though noise problems had eased since the enforcement orders were issued in late 2018, what Poland perceived as the council's "incompetence" at monitoring the vineyard and controlling its activities gave him little confidence.
He and wife Christine had joined forces with two other affected neighbours, Lindsay Niemann and Julie Loranger, collectively spending more than $1m on sound experts, planning consultants and a top environmental lawyer to fight the vineyard and hold the council to account.
"We stuck to our guns out of principle. We weren't going to allow council or Cable Bay to get away with it. It's the ordinary citizens fighting back.
"The only way we can get our money back is by suing the council and that's certainly on the cards."
Approached by the Herald, Niemann, in her 80s, said the saga had dragged on for eight years.
But it all could have been avoided if Cable Bay had applied for resource consent at the outset in 2012, and council had carried out proper monitoring, she said.
"The stress has been quite phenomenal. Never-ending costs.
"Our lives were disrupted for years by these activities and it wasn't pleasant at all. We didn't feel safe in our own home."
In a statement, Petrou said his company Cable Bay Wine Ltd had the utmost respect for the law and always endeavoured to comply.
The saga involved complex issues with considerable history, which could be easily misunderstood.
Any retrospective consent would only be issued on strict conditions that would address all the neighbours' concerns and preserve the amenity of the environment.
"Cable Bay would of course fully respect the terms of any consent granted but does not consider it prudent to address these issues further while the matter is still being assessed by the court.
"Cable Bay prides itself on providing a destination dining experience and very much hopes that it will continue to do so in the future."
Auckland Council manager regulatory compliance Steve Pearce said the council had sought enforcement orders against Cable Bay, which limited how the vineyard could operate.
Additional proceedings were now before the District Court relating to noise limit breaches involving charges against Cable Bay Wine Ltd and two employees.
"While the case remains before the court, council is unable to comment. We are, however, hopeful to see a consent with necessary conditions, and a fully compliant site, in place before the summer season."
* Additional reporting Chris Reed