Tauranga man‘s harbour reclaim attempt
Tio Faulkner had a plan.
It involved a whole lot of demolition rubble and a sizeable part of the coastal marine area near Mt Maunganui…and pigs.
Faulkner was going to expand his property by reclaiming a large part of the neighbouring tidal flats and turn it into a park for his family.
It was a bold plan, but the Tauranga man was well on course.
He had used a huge amount of broken concrete to build a 3-metre-high platform, about 30mwide and stretching 15m into the tidal flats. It covered some 1000 square metres.
His project went awry when a member of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council began an aerial survey of Tauranga Harbour in July 2019 and spotted a curiously large structure that appeared to be stretching into the tidal area.
Faulkner lives on Matapihi Rd, Mt Maunganui. It is Māori freehold land vested in the Matapihi Ohuki Trust, and he is a trustee.
A few days after the structure came to the council’s attention, staff members went to the property to see what was going on.
They found a huge amount of construction waste deposited in the foreshore area. It was mostly large chunks of concrete but also contained plastic wrap and other material. It created a large flat platform.
Near the reclaimed land was a rundown piggery with at least 20 pigs, from which a stream of effluent could be seen flowing into the harbour.
When council staff told Faulkner he needed resource consents for depositing the material on the foreshore, and for operating the piggery, he told them he held an “intellectual resource consent” issued by the “Tangatawhenua Wealth and Resource Management Authority” that allowed him to undertake any work he wanted to on the property.
In the following months, Faulkner used more material, including steel, polystyrene, plastic and wood to extend the reclamation, which is inside an area recognised as an ‘’Area of Significant Cultural Value’’.
The council issued him an abatement notice in September 2019, and another in November 2019, but he didn’t comply.
When staff went to the site in August last year nothing had changed. Water samples taken from a pond leading to the harbour recorded very high readings of E.coli.
Faulkner was charged with various breaches of the Resource Management Act. He defended the charges in an eight-day trial in Tauranga District Court before Judge Prudence Steven in late July.
The court heard evidence from staff who were told by Faulkner that he wanted to “create something similar to Memorial Park for his whānau to use”.
It also heard that he accused the staff of trespassing and told them his “Intellectual Resource Consent” allowed for “earthworks mitigation for effects of global warming”.
Experts said the disturbance of the foreshore and seabed had an adverse effect on plants, animals and their habitat. It was also noted that the liquid flowing from the piggery to the harbour smelled strongly of faeces and contained “very, very high” levels of faecal bacteria.
Faulkner suggested the samples may have been tampered with by council staff before they were tested.
He said the reclamation works were lawful because they fell within his rights as mana whenua to exercise undisturbed customs and usage rights over Māori-owned land, and the council could not “prove its claim and authority over Māori customary land”.
Judge Steven issued her decision this month. She said none of Faulkner’s arguments constituted a valid defence to the charges and “The laws of Parliament (including the RMA and the Criminal Procedure Act) apply to the property and to Mr Faulkner”.
Faulkner was convicted of six charges, including reclaiming an area of foreshore and seabed without resource consent, discharging effluent from a piggery where it could enter water, contravening an abatement notice and failing to provide information as directed by an enforcement officer.
He will be sentenced in January.
A Bay of Plenty Regional Council spokesman said the council would not comment prior to sentencing.
Faulkner could not be reached for comment.