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To Rod Duke: Give us back our beach

Friday 5th April 2019

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Neighbours of Briscoes multi-millionaire Rod Duke say he should be forced to pull down his reconstructed boat shed following a High Court decision quashing all resource consents to turn it into a helicopter pad.

In a letter to Auckland Council planners, members of the Herne Bay Residents Association stress their “continued dismay and deep concern at the repeated attempts by the Duke family to seek consent for the demonstrably ‘illegal’ boat shed on Sentinel Beach”.

Duke, worth $750 million according to NBR’s Rich List, last year applied to the council to convert a large boat shed on Sentinel Beach below one of his Herne Bay properties into a Thunderbirds-style helipad. Duke said he would use the helipad to get himself and friends to out-of-town golf courses more quickly.

However, in December, Justice Christine Gordon said Auckland Council was wrong not to have considered the impact on - and opinions of - beachgoers when it gave Duke approval for the helipad without holding a public consenting process.

The Kawau Action Group, which led the original opposition to the helipad, argued people using the beach would be disrupted, or even put in danger, by helicopters taking off and landing above them.

All work ground to a halt following the High Court decision, although from the outside the construction looks almost complete.

Now the Dukes have appointed a new lawyer and split the council consent application into two parts. The first is for a certificate of compliance for the boatshed structure and the second to use it as a helipad.

The Herne Bay Residents Association, which has taken over the fight from the Kawau Action Group, says the process is “seriously flawed”.

“A more appropriate approach would be to seek a declaration from the Environment Court to determine whether the boatshed has any existing use rights and if so, to what extent,” co-chairs Dirk Hudig and Don Mathieson say in their letter to Auckland Council specialist planner Veena Krishna.

“It is patent nonsense for the family to apply for a Certificate of Compliance for a building that no longer lawfully exists... Auckland Council planners must now put a stop to this illegal structure (and its proposed use), have it removed, and Sentinel Beach returned to the people of Auckland.”

The residents association members say the fact that the original boatshed has been completely rebuilt, including the piles being replaced and the ramp being taken away, means it should no longer even be classified as a boatshed and existing use rights should not apply.

They say a photo at the top of the Dukes’ certificate of compliance application is misleading because it shows a picture of the beachfront, and the building site behind. However, in the place of the boatshed as it is now, with its black metal walls and blank sea-facing front, is what looks like a weatherboard boathouse with a large doorway and a ramp.

This is a "fictitious image of the building showing a ramp that does not exist and doors that also do not exist. It would appear that these aspects of the building have been photoshopped in," the pair say.

“It should also be noted that the photoshopped boat slipway is completely different to the one that existed prior to it being abandoned and removed from the seabed.”

Duke's lawyer, Richard Brabant, says an alternative approach to seeking a consent to reconstruct the boatshed is to re-design it so that it meets permitted activity standards.

"That is lawful and recognises the control the RMA stipulates on development and use."

It does not make provision for "consultation, public notification or prior approvals of neighbours," he says.

Brabant says the "photo" in the compliance application is a visual simulation of the proposed redesign.

The detailed architects' plans, which will be considered by the council when determining whether the reconstruction complies with the permitted activity standards, "detail the front opening doors and a slipway."

Hudig and Mathieson are calling on other members of the residents association to put money towards any future High Court action.

“We estimate this would cost, at a minimum, between $20,000 and $30,000,” they say in a letter to residents. “This means we are looking for generous pledges.”

Mathieson told BusinessDesk he doesn’t see any problem getting enough money to continue fighting the Dukes’ boatshed/helipad

“We have heaps of support. We are trying to send a message to council that we have the money.”

No one at Auckland Council was available for comment.


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