To the Editor, The Northland Age, P.O. Box 45, Kaitaia. 02-10-18
“No Free Real Estate”
Some observations about your article, ‘The Opua boatyard battle goes on', 2nd October 2018:
The first is that 'the battle' has never been about the “boatyard'. It is about our reserve. The boatyard has long had all the consents it requires to function on its own land, as it did under the previous owners from 1974. The present owner is the first to assert claims to the adjoining public land, including by means of adverse possession', a tenuous legal stratagem to be compared with a child's claim of 'finder's keepers’. By that measure any individual could lay claim to any of the nation's public reserves as free real estate.
The second is that the article is an improvement on that earlier printed in the Advocate and Herald insofar as it lays some initial emphasis on the fact that the challenged and quashed 'easements’ were 'granted', not directly by DoC or the Minister of Conservation, but in fact by FNDC acting under a Ministerial Delegation. However, that was in 2015 whereas your article states it was “in 2006”. The FNDC in 2006 made a recommendation for the grant of 'easements' to DoC, and, in 2007, the DoC decision declined some of the FNDC proposals as did the Court of Appeal in July this year for much the same reasons. DoC had previously made the same decision in 2000 and did so subsequently in 2013. This is because the boatyard owner refused to allow the registration of the granted easements and has kept applying for extra private rights over public reserve, again, and again, and again. These were the extra private rights that were the downfall of the FNDC's grant of purported ‘easements' in 2015. By the boatyard owner's own estimates, his applications and Court proceedings have cost the District's ratepayers and the Country's taxpayers approx $1.5M to date. Mayor Carter publicly claimed these rising costs to be a basis for giving this serial applicant what he wants.
The third observation is that Opua Coastal Preservation Inc (OCP) has not, as reported, “...been fighting Mr Schmuck since before the FNDC granted easements in 2006..." OCP was formed in December 2014 after the FNDC had decided it has jurisdiction as “landowner” to just 'grant these private rights over reserve. OCP put this FNDC“permission”, and their subsequent grant of ‘easements' in 2015, before the Courts in order to uphold the integrity of the Reserves Act and protect reserves on behalf of all New Zealanders. Both FNDC decisions have now been quashed by the Courts.
The given basis for these serial applications has been that the boatyard ‘needed these private uses of the public land in order to maintain its economic viability'. An illuminating development occurred in March 2017, when, after the High Court had upheld the now-quashed ‘easements’, the boatyard owner removed all four slipway rail spurs from the private boatyard site. He later declared, in an application to establish a private marina in Wall’s Bay, that he had “decommissioned” this infrastructure on his own land. He was evidently preparing to conduct his business activities solely on Walls Bay reserve when OCP took the matter further to the Court of Appeal.
Kind Regards, Mike Rashbrooke, 5A English Bay Road, Opua, Bay of Islands.
It appears however that the Boatyard has never paid rates or rent for its use of the Reserve.