Le­gal tus­sle: $224,000 a bridge too far

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - NI­CHOLAS BOY­ACK

A Wainuiomata farmer is re­fus­ing to pay $224,000 to­wards a new bridge that will even­tu­ally be used by thou­sands of cy­clists.

The present bridge, built in 1931, is the only ac­cess to Alan Loan’s 16-hectare prop­erty next to the Bar­ing Head light­house com­plex.

Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil be­lieves that, as a reg­u­lar user, he should pay a sub­stan­tial share of the $750,000 needed to build the new bridge, say­ing it would be wrong for ratepay­ers to sub­sidise his use of it.

But Loan says the bridge will form part of the Rimu­taka Cy­cle Trail, opened by Prime Min­is­ter John Key in Oc­to­ber 2013, but cur­rently end­ing short of his prop­erty.

He is re­fus­ing to en­ter into ne­go­ti­a­tions with the coun­cil, or ac­knowl­edge let­ters from its lawyers.

‘‘Who can af­ford $200,000? You have to be on big bucks to be able to af­ford that,’’ he said.

‘‘You can tell them [the re­gional coun­cil] I will see them in court.’’

He said the lat­est let­ter from the coun­cil ad­vised him that it in­tended to use the Prop­erty Law Act to try to re­cover his share.

It rec­om­mended that he seek le­gal ad­vice – but he has no in­ten­tion of do­ing that. ‘‘If it goes to court I will re­spond my­self. With a judge who will know all the facts, I will be shown to be right.’’

Un­til now, the coun­cil has paid to main­tain the bridge, which is part of the East Har­bour Re­gional Park, and is also used by coun­cil staff.

But it is in a poor con­di­tion and ve­hi­cles will soon have to stop us­ing it. Po­lice, the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Wa­ter and At­mo­spheric Re­search, and Mar­itime New Zealand also use the bridge, and have agreed to pay their share.

Coun­cil en­vi­ron­men­tal man­ager Nigel Cory de­clined to com­ment, say­ing he was happy to let the le­gal process re­solve the is­sue.

Lawyer Eugene Collins, of Collins and May, said the Prop­erty Law Act was quite clear in such sit­u­a­tions: any­one get­ting a ‘‘ben­e­fit’’ from a right of way had to pay a fair share of the cost of main­tain­ing that ac­cess.

With­out hav­ing seen the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments, he said Loan would find it ‘‘hard to re­sist’’ the re­gional coun­cil’s ap­proach. Given the sit­u­a­tion Loan was in, he was ‘‘un­wise’’ not to use a lawyer to ar­gue his case, Collins said.

Re­gional coun­cil­lor Prue La­ma­son favoured the le­gal ap­proach and said she had no sym­pa­thy for Loan.

‘‘The other parties who use the bridge are all happy to pay their share. Why should re­gional ratepay­ers pay for Mr Loan to have ac­cess to his prop­erty?’’

Loan does have at least two al­lies. In April, Lower Hutt coun­cil­lors Max Shier­law and Camp­bell Barry is­sued a state­ment crit­i­cis­ing the re­gional coun­cil’s stance.

They wanted the mat­ter re­ferred to elected mem­bers, and a halt called on court ac­tion. The bridge, they said, was a pub­lic as­set, and it was unfair to ask Loan to help pay for its re­place­ment.

‘‘Who can af­ford $200,000? You have to be on big bucks to be able to af­ford that . . . You can tell them [the re­gional coun­cil] I will see them in court.’’ Alan Loan

Alan Loan is not happy at be­ing asked to pay $224,000 to­wards the cost of a bridge to ac­cess his Bar­ing Head prop­erty.

PHOTO: MAARTEN HOLL/FAIR­FAX NZ

Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil be­lieves that, as a reg­u­lar user of the bridge, Loan should pay a sub­stan­tial share of the $750,000 needed to build a new one.

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