A rich Waiheke vineyard owner at war with his neighbours has finally been granted consent for his restaurant and wedding operation despite questions over his suitability to hold a liquor licence.
New allegations have emerged about Loukas Petrou's multimillion-dollar Cable Bay Vineyards, including claims of drunken patrons "at various states of nakedness" after imbibing.
And despite the picturesque vineyard clocking up at least 75 noise complaints in recent years, the Environment Court has just granted Petrou retrospective consent to continue operating - subject to strict conditions to prevent it destroying the quiet, rural environment.
However the court has taken aim at Auckland Council for allowing Petrou's noisy and unconsented wine business to grow unchecked.
"We think it a matter of regret that while the council ultimately took enforcement steps ... the problems brought about by the unconsented building works and the almost uncontrolled growth of indoor and outdoor activities on the Cable Bay land, were probably exacerbated by lack of sufficiently early action by the council."
The Weekend Herald reported this month that Petrou had locked horns with the council and his Waiheke neighbours in a long-running Environment Court battle over excessive noise.
His companies have been slapped with enforcement orders, prosecuted over helicopter flights and the vineyard is back before the court for breaching noise limits.
A band of neighbours who are directly affected say they have spent more than $1 million fighting the operation through the courts and trying to hold Auckland Council to account.
They are now considering suing the council to recoup the money.
The just-released Environment Court decision means Cable Bay can continue serving food and beverages and hold up to 30 weddings a year.
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But it must meet stringent noise limit conditions to protect the area's amenity and keep a detailed complaints register, including "details of any potential enthusiastic behaviour that could have contributed to the complaint".
The consent can be reviewed annually by the council to deal with any problems that arise.
Meanwhile, Petrou is facing another fight over the vineyard's liquor licence, with the Auckland District Licensing Committee raising questions about his suitability as an applicant.
Neighbours will oppose the licence renewal at an upcoming hearing.
They argue Petrou's companies have repeatedly breached legal obligations and he is therefore not fit to hold a liquor licence.
They claim alcohol sales at the vineyard have resulted in noisy drunks "at various states of nakedness or patrons walking along the road to the next vineyard doing a 'brown eye' with pants around their ankles exposing their buttocks to others".
There are further allegations of an intoxicated vineyard-goer passing out and being taken to hospital, drunk punters throwing bottles and cans, and pickled wine-lovers getting lost then falling asleep in neighbouring properties or "relieving themselves" in bushes.
A decision granting Cable Bay's liquor licence earlier this year said Petrou was the applicant company's director and responsible for overall management of the premises.
Petrou told the committee he was a suitable applicant.
Convictions recorded against his associated company Motukaha Investments Ltd relating to helicopter flights were "not criminal in nature, nor do they involve fraud, dishonesty, violence, drug or alcohol-related offending".
He said Cable Bay was "high end" and rejected allegations the vineyard's restaurant and bar facilities were "party central".
Questioned about supplied photos showing discarded wine bottles and men urinating, Petrou told the committee it was possible they were vineyard workers or the photos had been taken elsewhere.
He'd never seen drunk patrons at the vineyard and relied on duty managers to comply with the law.
The committee granted the licence but upon strict conditions, giving Petrou the "benefit of the doubt".
"In our view evidence was presented that would indicate that the applicant's suitability is questionable and requires careful consideration.
"The committee is concerned with the extent to which Mr Petrou has breached consenting legislation... Mr Petrou appears to only make changes to his operation when ordered by a court."
In a statement, Petrou said he was pleased consent had now been granted, "despite vigorous, systematic and sometimes quite unreasonable objections from the neighbours largely about historical complaints".
"Cable Bay is now looking to enjoy providing an excellent venue for dining and experiencing great food and wine over the summer months and into the future."
Auckland Council regulatory manager Steve Pearce said enforcement action was taken over an extended period against Cable Bay due to "ongoing offending".
"When offending continues despite significant enforcement, as a last resort we are left with the costly and difficult prospect of court action."
The council had issued abatement notices, infringement notices and notices to fix.
"We have also successfully prosecuted the owner three times for breaching the rules around helicopter use at the property and have a fourth prosecution before the court at the moment.
"We are pleased that this summer the venue will be operating under the new consent, after what has been a lengthy court process."