28 Jan 2016

Who can use driveway to empty land?

5:42 am on 28 January 2016

A Christchurch couple have been told they can't use part of their property because the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) might need access to it.

The Southshore property of Pete and Marion Neal backs onto a section that was red-zoned after the Canterbury earthquakes. They own the long driveway that gave access to that property.

They say they should be able to make use of that land as they wish, but the government agency overseeing the red zone disagrees.

Peter and Marion Neal say the Crown shouldn’t be able to stop them making use of their driveway, which is surrounded by redzone land. 
The gate on the left hand side of the photo marks the end of their driveway.

Peter and Marion Neal say the Crown shouldn't be able to stop them making use of their driveway, which is surrounded by red zone land. The gate marks the end of their driveway. Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

The Neals' home used to be wedged between other homes but now backs straight onto open land, and then the estuary.

The house behind the Neals was red-zoned due to earthquake damage and demolished but the Neals' driveway, which gave access to it, remained.

The couple continue to own the 200 square metre strip of land, which runs between several red zone sections.

There was a legal agreement to provide access to the house via the driveway but, as the house no longer existed, Mr Neal said the access was no longer needed.

"Yes, they have a right of access, but the people don't live there anymore," Mr Neal said. "So I'm saying it's a load of rubbish, and I want to use my bit of land which I've been paying rates on for the last 40 years. I want to use that for my chickens."

After a visit from CERA, Mr Neal was told he had to remove a chicken coop and pile of wood he had on the driveway.

He was told the authority had a legal right to access red zone properties via his driveway, and that it planned to enforce that.

The Neals have been told to remove the chicken coop and pile of wood from their driveway.

The Neals have been told to remove the chicken coop and pile of wood from their driveway. Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

Mr Neal said the government had done nothing with the red zone land in the last few years, since demolishing the house.

He said, at 80 years old, he was not concerned if the Crown said it needed access in the future but expected that would not be for several years.

"If, in five or six years, they [Land Information New Zealand] say we now have to have access, not a problem. But right now that land is not being used. I'm making good use of it, and not only that but we're looking after it."

Access to reserve blocked - LINZ

The management of red zone land has recently been transferred from CERA to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

The LINZ group manager for the Flatlands Red Zone, Mathew Clark, said the Neals had placed a significant amount of firewood and other items on the driveway, which had blocked access to the nearby reserve and estuary.

He said LINZ was doing clearance work on Crown-owned land along the edge of the Southshore estuary to ensure open space areas were safe and easy to maintain. He said part of this involved making sure legal accessways were clear.

There were a number of shared driveways throughout the red zone, Mr Clark said.

Mr Neal said there were many other ways for the government agency to gain access to the red zone properties if needed.

There was a simple solution if the Crown wanted to make use of his bit of land, he said.

"In my way of thinking, I should not own this bit of land," Mr Neal said, "because it is dividing what is going to be a reserve... So that bit of land I own is dividing that reserve in half. All they've got to do is do a land swap and give me 200 square metres in here, or pay me what it is worth."

LINZ said they had spoken to the Neals, and they had agreed to remove the items.

The Neals, however, said this was not the case - and, for the moment, the chickens and woodpile would be staying put.