I am an aircraft owner and regularly use the privately owned airfield called Omaha Flats (30 miles north of Auckland).

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Customer: I am an aircraft owner and regularly use the privately owned airfield called Omaha Flats (30 miles north of Auckland). This airfield is listed in the Civil Aviation AIP list of airfields available for public use with the owners permission. At the western end of the airfield is land owned by Watercare (Auckland Council) and used as a effluent soakage field for the Omaha Sewage Plant. In 1988, several years after this airfield became operational, Rodney District Council (the previous owners before Auckland Council took them over) planted gum trees on this land to assist with the uptake of effluent. These trees are now over 40 metres tall and are creating a serious safety hazard for aircraft using the field. Civil Aviation have recently made it illegal for us to fly over the trees which means we can only land towards the west, and take off towards the east, regardless of which way the wind is blowing. There have been numerous near misses and one serious crash due to aircraft trying to land downwind and not being able to stop. We have approached Auckland Council, Watercare, the local Auckland Councilor, the Rodney Local Board, but nobody is prepared to do anything about removing the trees. When the trees were originally planted the then airfield owner (now deceased) was told the trees would be regularly coppiced for firewood and allowed to grow again and would therefore never be a problem for the airfield. This has NEVER HAPPENED. We understand New Zealand Property Law says a land owner cannot allow trees to grow that cause problems for the neighbours !!! Any suggestions what we should do?
JA: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?
Customer: Brian Leach
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer about this?
Customer: We have 5 years of paperwork and have had meetings with Auckland Council, Watercare, ***** ***** our MP. and lawyers. Auckland Council have invited us to take legal action, and a lawyer has told us we would probably win a case, but we might be asked to pay for the removal of the trees !!! But why should we have to spend tens of thousand's of dollars to get Auckland Council to obey the law. They know we cant afford to take them on.
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No I don't think so.
Answered by Chris The Lawyer in 5 mins 1 year ago
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

Hi
I am a New Zealand lawyer based in Wellington and will help you with your question today. Please give me a minute to read the question

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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

The Property Law Act does provide for a process of getting trees removed or trimmed, and you are correct that sometimes the court will order that you pay for this. You are likely to get an order, but I suggest you could tell the judge that there were promises to trim the trees, which has not been honoured, and that may be a ground to require the council to pay. There would be a risk that this would not be ordered but then you could choose whether to incur the costs

Customer
Not sure what the last sentence means?
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

You could file your application, and ask the judge to order the council pay the removal/trimming. The judge may agree. If the judge does not agree, you would have the choice of deciding whether you could pay, and get it done or choose not to enforce if you cannot pay

Customer
Same old story. Auckland Council can just thumb their nose at the law knowing it will cost us megabucks to take them on and even if we win they will simply appeal to a higher Court until we just go away because of the cost. And the irony is we built that airfield years before those trees were even planted!!!!! Thanks but you have told us nothing we didn't already know. YOU CANT FIGHT CITY HALL.
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

I do think you have an argument for the council being required to pay

Customer
we know that, but how much is it going to cost us to take them to Court, and will we be awarded costs. NOT BLOODY LIKELY. And they will simply fight us with the best QC's in the land at us ratepayers expense!! The big problem for Watercare, that they will fight like hell to avoid, is the fact that there are 10 hectares of trickle lines discharging the effluent under the trees and now that these trees have been allowed to grow the felling of mature trees will destroy the trickle lines. The last estimate to replace them all was $150,000 !!!!!!!!! If they had been coppiced (cut down and allowed to regrow) every 7 years, which was the original intention this would not have been a problem. But between the incompetence of Rodney District Council and them being taken over by Auckland Council the trees were never coppiced like they were supposed to be. But this IS NOT OUR PROBLEM, it was caused by their incompetence, but they are not likely to back off and incur such huge expense just for the sake of a few pilots. So now we either close the airfield that we built and have used for 35 years or wait until somebody gets killed and the owner gets sued for operating an unsafe airfield.
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

There have been similar cases. In Rotorua there were concerns about trees on the land near the runway, and they were trimmed, although I do not know who paid

Customer
Unfortunately your advice is not very helpful. A huge regional airport like Rotorua would have a multimillion dollar operating budget and would easily afford the legal costs of enforcing the New Zealand Property Law to get trees removed. Auckland Council know we cannot afford to take them on.
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

I am only the messenger. The remedy is what it is. I am sorry you haven’t got much help but any lawyer would confirm this, as I think you know from consulting your own lawyer
Customer
You are absolutely right, it is what it is. And you are also absolutely correct that we had been advised and already knew that "Justice" in New Zealand can be bought by the use of public money, and denied to others who cannot afford it. We were vainly hoping you might have been able to suggest some sort of remedy for this, but as you say, it is what it is.
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Chris The Lawyer, Expert

I am sorry that there is no other legal remedy, and my only other suggestion would be to go to the news media

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