Court protection welcomed
A “hugely significant” Supreme Court ruling on a rural Tairua block guarantees that covenanted land can never be carved up by subsequent owners.
A 404ha bush block north of Tairua proved the test case for all QEII covenanted land, and upholds the wishes of a man who died 15 years ago.
QEII is an independent charitable trust that partners with private landowners to use covenants to protect natural and cultural heritage sites on their land. The landowner continues to own and manage the covenanted land, and the covenant and protection remains when the property is sold to a new owner.
The late Mallyon Russell registered a covenant on his Tairua property in 1997 prior to his death in 2003. He owned two blocks including the 404ha block at the end of Paul Rd near Tairua and another 207ha. A covenant on the second block of land allowed for some development to make it more saleable, so that the ageing owner could pay for his mounting Tairua rest home fees.
However would-be developer Andrew Davis contested the validity of the covenant that prevented him subdividing the 404ha of land through his company Green Growth No.2 Limited.
According to court documents, Green Growth holds the property on trust for ABD Properties Ltd which wishes to develop, or at least secure permission to develop some of the land. An approach was made to the Trust for permission to do so. The Trust declined, prompting litigation.
Both the High Court and Court of Appeal sided with the trust that the covenant was valid — and now the Supreme Court has further confirmed the decision.
“This is a really important decision for us because it means covenants cannot be removed by subsequent landowners even after they’ve sold land or passed on,” says QEII Trust Deputy Chief Executive Paul Kirby.
“When I drive around the Coromandel with our regional rep, I can say that I think the Coromandel landscape has benefited hugely from these protective covenants which protect the landscape and natural character of the place. For us this decision is very significant. It defends that character that is distinctly Coromandel.”
The property is at the end of Paul Rd north of Tairua and is near several other large blocks also protected by QEII Trust covenants, and close to a successful kiwi sanctuary at Whenuakite.
Mr Russell was introduced to the idea of covenanting his land by the late Tim Wyn-harris, who established Te Moata Retreat upon the 344ha of land which he bought for the purpose of creating a buddhist centre.
Te Moata co-manager Dave Saunders says the centre was ‘delighted’ with the news. Its 344ha is also under a similar covenant, while on the other side of them is Silverstream Falls which is also covenanted.
“We were pretty horrified at the prospect of that 400ha potentially having its protection overturned,” he says.
“A great deal of work has gone into protecting kiwi and other rare species in this area, and the thought of having lots more houses, siltation of the streams, dogs and cats etc could have done a huge amount of damage.
“The wonderful thing is it’s been tested in court and declared indefeasible and that will discourage other people from testing covenants.”
Another local environmentalist involved in protecting the area was the late Derek Boyd, who — according to Tairua Environment Society Chair John Drummond — was deeply concerned that a new owner could remove the covenant and subdivide.
“We welcome the result and congratulate QEII on the win, which prevents subdivision and development in a remote bush block adjacent to the DOC estate, helps the wildlife including kiwi to flourish and strengthens the mountain to the sea corridor,” he says.
“It also gives faith in the QEII as a protective covenant for people who wish to preserve bush on their properties for future generations. We say kia kaha.”
LAND on a rural Tairua block can never be carved .
Fresh eggs are collected by Peter Millen who has been catching rats and possums to protect native birds on the Pauanui-tairua Cycle Trail.