Legal tussle: $224,000 a bridge too far
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.
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.