Ross Britten says he's not responsible for slips, God is. Debrin Foxcroft reports
Jack Adam no longer believes in the idea of an eco city. He certainly wouldn't use the term to describe Waitakere. Not when he looks out to the edge of his property and sees the mess Swanson Stream has become.
``Everything you can think of is in that stream,' says Mr Adam. ``Lately, it has been large pieces of concrete with reinforced steel running through them.'
For more than 15 years Mr Adam has been fighting for a clean-up of the stream, but he has become disillusioned by the battle.
``The person who is dumping the rubbish is still dumping it. To me, the whole episode has highlighted what a complete waste of money local government has become.'
Early in the 1990s, resource consent was granted to Ross Britten to develop a 2km model railway track and botan ical gardens on his 13ha property. Almost 20 years since the original consent, the project is not finished. Instead, truckloads of tyres, building debris and soil have been brought onto the site.
Mr Britten was given further extensions to his resource consent in 1996, 2004 and 2007, angering his neighbours.
The frustrations of the residents are beginning to be felt at Waitakere City Council. In the last five years, there have been two major slips into the stream. The first was in 2005, the second in July last year.
In both cases Mr Britten has fought council requests to pay for the clean- up. Debris from the 50m slip in July last year still blocks the stream, and the council refuses to fix a problem it blames on Mr Britten.
Penny Hulse, Waitakere deputy mayor, says the council filed an action in the Environment Court on March 12 to force Mr Britten to clean up the 2008 slip.
She says members of the council have sympathised with the residents and their struggle over the last decade and a half.
``Some of us in council feel like we have been hitting ourselves against a brick wall as well,' says Ms Hulse. ``When the first resource consent was given, the council hearing committee believed Mr Britten. Subsequent actions have shown their trust may have been misplaced.'
The last two extensions have been dealt with by an independent commissioner to ensure fairness in the process.
``The initial resource consent had given Mr Britten the opportunity to keep applying for extensions.'
Ms Hulse says the city council has struggled to engage Auckland Regional Council on this issue. But a top-level meeting this past week has brought the organisations together on the issue of Swanson Stream.
``It has been a hard road to get the ARC to take this issue seriously,' says Ms Hulse.
The regional council's regulatory services general manager Janine Bell says a report is being prepared on Swanson Stream for the environmental management committee.
Mr Britten did not respond to repeated phone calls from The Aucklander. He has said in the past he would fight any legal action from the city councils. He has said that both slips were ``acts of God' and nothing to do with the 3m-fill embankment he has built for the model railway track.
After last year's slip, Mr Britten told the New Zealand Herald, ``This is a baby slip compared to some around. It's 100 per cent weather-related. Everything has been done to ensure there would not be any slips but these were the worst conditions in 10 years.'