26 Jul 2018

Boat builder Doug Schmuck loses battle to access to coastal reserve

10:24 am on 26 July 2018

A Bay of Islands boat-builder has lost his long-running battle to be able to work on a coastal reserve.

Walls Bay Reserve

People working on a boat that’s up on the slip on the Walls Bay esplanade reserve. Photo: Supplied / Maiki Marks

The Court of Appeal has quashed easements over the Walls Bay Reserve, granted to boat builder Doug Schmuck by the Far North District Council.

Doug's Boatyard at Walls Bay near Opua has always had the right to haul boats up and down a slipway to his yard overlooking the reserve.

For 24 years Mr Schmuck has been trying to formalise his right to wash down and repair boats on the slipway itself. For most of that time a group of locals has been opposing him.

The Opua Coastal Preservation Society said Mr Schmuck should not be running his business on public land.

"It's not a big reserve - about a couple of acres - but it's one of the very few pieces of level grass in Opua and we are really digging our teeth in."

Mr Schmuck had resource consents from the regional council to work on boats on the reserve but lacked the approval needed under the Reserves Act, until 2015.

In 2015 the then conservation minister Maggie Barry delegated her powers under the act to the Far North District Council.

The council, headed by mayor John Carter, granted Mr Schmuck the easements.

But the Court of Appeal now found that most of the rights Mr Schmuck was given could not actually be granted. It found some amounted to occupation of the reserve and quashed them.

Mr Schmuck gets to keep his access over the reserve for boats on the slipway but loses his right to store them, wash them down, and on work on them at the reserve.

Opua Coastal Preservation Society society member Mike Rashbrooke said that was as it should be.

"[The council] have been letting him do all this since 2003 and this has confused members of the local community."

Mr Schmuck declined to comment.

He was discussing the ruling with the Far North District Council and his lawyers and was yet to decide if he would carry the fight to the Supreme Court.

Local resident Maiki Marks, who has lodged a Treaty claim over the reserve, said tangata whenua had complained repeatedly about Mr Schmuck's activities.

In the light of the Court of Appeal decision the council should start to redress those grievances and it could start by re-erecting the Walls Bay Reserve sign that was pulled out five years ago, she said.

Former Green Party leader Russel Norman said the ruling was a victory for the community.

Mr Norman has been a vocal opponent of Mr Schmuck's activities since 2009.

"These are public lands. They are for public purposes and they were being effectively privatised," Mr Norman said.

"I think this decision is really great news for the public of New Zealand."

A Northland Regional Council spokesperson said it was yet to see the Court of Appeal decision.

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