Guest post by Affordable Auckland Mayoral candidate Stephen Berry
The owners of a Titirangi property at the centre of a controversy over cutting down a Kauri tree in March are again in the media after attempts to cut down the tree on Thursday have been thwarted by interference from neighbours and protestors.
John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith are the victims of thugs who have previously invaded their property to prevent them carrying out a completely legal action. Their re-victimisation should not be permitted.
In March, their Kauri tree was occupied by Michael Tavares for three days until Lenihan and Greensmith promised not to cut the Kauri down. Neighbour Winnie Charlesworth claims the owners have broken the promise they made to neighbours by resuming plans to fell the tree. This is wrong. This was a promise extracted by the coercion of their property being illegally occupied. Nobody should be bound by such extortion. In any case the promise not to cut the tree down also came with an agreement to sell the property [to neighbours for a fair market price, and no such purchase has been concluded].*
I have no opinion on whether the tree should be felled or incorporated into the design of a new house because it is none of my business what decision the owners make. This is a simple question of private property rights. Do the activities of Lenihan and Greensmith violate the sovereignty of their neighbours over their own properties? Auckland Council certainly doesn’t seem to think so, even after taking the unusual step of reviewing the resource consent for tree removal.
The major affordability issues Auckland is experiencing with its property market can be traced back to the distortions caused by systematic abuse of property rights. The prevention of residential development outside of the urban boundary drives up prices through artificial land shortages. The obscene expense of obtaining resource consent adds tens of thousands of dollars to construction and land use alterations. Artificially-inflated property prices also keep rates high for owners in particular areas, regardless of the services used.
My sympathies go out to John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith for the nightmare they have experienced at the hands of their own neighbours. They will have incurred enormous expense as a result of this controversy while being no closer to developing their land.
* Editorial correction: Property owners John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith issued a statement yesterday saying they are restarting work on building a house on each of the two sites in dispute because the neighbours have not bought the land as they had promised. They said the "resource consents were lawfully granted, and that works could continue. It has been nine months since protesters invaded the properties at Paturoa Rd and there has been no response received to the landowners' plan. This plan was for those parties involved in the protest to purchase the two properties at a fair market value if they wished to save the tree.” No such purchase has ever been concluded.