Unconsented works on the Gisborne foreshore undertaken by former mayor Meng Foon have been halted by the district council he once represented.
But Foon confirmed he continued for several weeks after initially being told to stop.
On August 25, Foon began building a retaining wall in front of the Tatapouri Bay Oceanside Accommodation, which he owns with his wife Ying Foon under the company MY Gold Investments Ltd.
The work helped combat erosion caused by Cyclone Gabrielle and protected two large trees that were at risk of becoming dangerous, Foon said, the former race relations commissioner.
It started after a funding request to Gisborne District Council for post-cyclone support was never responded to, he said.
Gisborne District Council denied the claim, saying the only contact its resource consent team had with Foon after the cyclone was for consent to renew water to supply the campground.
Foon said he started building the wall because he sincerely believed he had the right to do so.
“After consulting with our consultants, we were confident that we had the property right to erect a retaining wall to ensure there was no further erosion on the land.
“The retaining wall is outside the coastal marine zone (and) the retaining wall is 10 meters inside our surveyed boundary.”
Local Democracy Reporting obtained an email showing the council requested a halt to work during a site visit on Aug. 31, within a week of the project starting.
But Foon chose to continue on the basis of legal advice that the council should tell him what he had breached.
From September 20, work was suspended while he traveled to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp.
It was not until October 6 that a reduction notice was issued, at which time he was still abroad.
Foon argued the wall was below the height required for consent and said he was disappointed it took the council so long to issue the formal notice.
“I think 38 days is too slow.”
Te Rūnanga or Ngāti Porou had been notified of the project, as had adjacent Māori landowners Pouawa A1, he said.
Foon also claimed the council’s previous realignment of the Tatapouri car park sea wall had redirected waves towards his property.
He was now calling on outside help to obtain council consent for resources for the work to continue.
In response to questions, the council did not address the route of the sea wall, but said it became aware of Foon’s construction in late August through a service request from a member of the public.
Sustainable Future Council director Joanna Noble said compliance staff visited the site and provided advice to Foon before an abatement notice was issued under the Waste Management Act. resources from 1991.
The advice was to cease land disturbance and installation of structures within 200 meters of medium-high water sources, which is essentially the high tide mark.
The council did not provide any information about the discussions it had with Foon and its contractors before issuing the abatement notice as the matter was under active investigation.
Foon was mayor of Gisborne for 18 years, from 2001 to 2019.
After his term, he became New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner, but resigned from the role in June 2023 after failing to disclose a conflict of interest.
Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.