I bought a section of land in the Marlborough Sounds. It had electricity and telephone to the boundary as well as water with plenty of pressure piped from a clean spring up on the hill. The water was shared by the half dozen or so houses in the bay.
I sketched my idea for a simple batch: Bedroom, a car port, kitchen, living room, laundry/bathroom and an extra guest room, just in case my son would one day want to visit.
I've always had a problem with long term storage of things that I don't need cluttering my living space. Thus I added a mezanine with a view of the bay as a kind of study, but with lots of storage space under the adjacent eaves. I envisiged a simple wooden structure with a tin roof raised on wooden piles as it was on a slope and earthquakes are not uncommon here.
Best do it properly, I thought, and so I hired an experienced local architect; He would be familiar with building regulations and local conditions. He put me in touch with a builder and an engineer and quoted me $8000 for his part in designing my batch. He thought that would take about 3 months. He recommended a number of consents I should be applying for meanwhile. e.g. permission to use a wet-back wood burner. I couldn't imagine why it would be an issue for the councel to decide as everyone else in the bay had one, but I filed the application anyway.
Importing my belongings
Meanwhile I rented a flat in Picton and waited for my caravan to arrive from England. There I had barely survived a harrowing divorce from my English ex, then I had shipped my caravan to Lyttleton. I went to collect it when they said it had arrived, only to discover it had been unloaded it in Auckland. The cost of driving up there and then towing it back plus the inter-islander ferry was prohibitive. Eventually I got them to ship it on to where I had asked for in the first place then drove down to collect it. This time I was told it wouldn't be released until I had it professionally steam cleaned!
I drove back up to Picton empty handed. From there I arranged the formalities and booked a new appointment for MAF inspection. I turned up for my appointment early in the morning as specified, but was told they had a large cruise ship in the harbour. Thus they wouldn't have time that day. They said to come back tomorrow.
I spent the day meandering about aimlessly and that night I slept in my car. The next day the inspector was in a strop. He insisted vehicles had to be shipped empty. Apparently I should have put all my posession in a separate container and he demanded I unload it all there on the docks. Having done so I sat in the waiting room, all day in fact, but the inspector didn't return. They wouldn't allow me to pack my things back in the caravan and I was instructed to "go back home" and make a new appointment.
In a foul mood I was driving back to Picton. Somewhere past Kaikoura another driver started playing silly bugger: He would accelerate every time I tried to overtake and then slow right down again when I pulled in behind him. After a few failed attempts I thought this is dangerous and so I really put my foot down so as to execute a safe manouever. Sadly a speed camera then caught me overtaking. 132kph it said... another $300 down the drain... for nothing.
Finally I got a new appointment for the MAF inspection. All my things had been sitting in the allegedly secure warehouse next to my steam cleaned caravan for weeks now. Everything was covered in coal dust as apparently there had been a shipment of coal that went through. I also noticed that items of value had gone missing, like the car battery jump leads and many other little things like my 1963 Silver Canadian dollar. That had been the first one I ever earned as a child, by collecting and recycling refundable drinks bottles. It had emotional significance to me even if it was only worth a dollar.
The MAF inspector spotted some cup-cake paper shells in one of the cabinets in my caravan. In a pedantic tirade he demanded to know whay they were. I appologized obsequiously for my negligence and oversight. He snorted with contempt and chucked them on the heap of coal-dust smothered other posessions I had there. I suspect you already get the picture what kind of people I was dealing with and so I wont't go on about it.
The inspection passed. In a hurry to get away I chucking everything back in the caravan without packing it properly into the storage cabinets. Thus I drove slowly. I got to a bend in the road apparently called "Hog Swamp". There were some little quail following their mommy on my side of the road and since I had a clear view I decided to cut across a right hand bend, thus avoiding that I mow them down with my trailer in tow. Next thing I know a police car is tail gating me for miles. When we got to Sedon, a tiny place with a convenience store, the officer switched on his flashing lights. I pulled over wondering what on Earth I might have done wrong. The cop said he was just finishing his shift (probably planning to get something from the store on his way home) and asked about the British plates on my Caravan. I explained I had just picked it up from the docks. Then he accused me of driving an unlicesed vehicle on the wrong side of the road. I said that as far as I know I get 6 months before I have to register it in New Zealand, but he ignored me and I got a court summons. The magistrate informed me that the unlicensed vehicle allegation had been dropped, but lectured me that "driving on the wrong side of the road" is a big problem with "foreigners" (even though in England they drive on the same side as we do). I probably would have just paid the fine had they given me a chance even though we all knew it was utter BS, because at most they could claim I cut across a corner and I though respecting wild life would be justification for that. This case took place over a year after the event and the officer simply claimed he did see any quail. The grumpy female magistrate accepted his word against mine and made me pay all the court costs as well as the fine.
Living in a Trailer
Anyway, at least I had somewhere to sleep on my own section now and I had already installed an electrical hookup. Apart from the occasional mussel barge at the little warf, goat sounds from the nearby farm land and a chorous of water birds and frogs in the wet-lands, it was nice and peaceful there. I could fish for my supper and there were plent of Khawai, Gurnard and Blue Cod too, as well as green lip mussels on the rocks. At night time you could see all teh stars as there was no light pollution.
I visited my architect, Chris Moran, on several occasions and he would hurriedly switch his computer over to show my project although it was blatantly obvious he had just been working on something totally unrelated and he was making absolutely no progress on mine. Meanwhile I got Marlborough Construction to build me a standard double garage shed with work benches and lots of storage at the back and all down one side under the benches.
At first the district council made a fuss about storm water run off too close and so we moved the site by 50cm to comply with official requirements. They still wouldn't approve and since I had no idea why the farmer who had subdivided the land had re-routed the natural storm water ditch on my section (and as show on the LIM report that I was given by the council) I simply restored it to it's natural course which came no where near the shed and would give me a nice big garden pond too.
The council did approve the shed design now and they even drove all the way out from Blenheim (a good hours drive and another hour back) to inspect the concrete base, as soon as that had been laid. In doing so, they ripped up the plastic sheeting for reasons unknown. They had come without warning and so I hadn't been there during their inspection, but the construction company later told me off. They explained that the sheeting is not just ornamental. It's inteded to stop the concrete drying too quickly, as otherwise it might crack.
My shed was built to plan and I bought a lovely sea worthy kayak. I keep it in my new shed and made a little shuttle with wheels to roll it down to the shore. I also added a fishing rod holder as some fish, like Kahawai, like to pursue moving bait. I would would need my hands to paddle and it was much preferable to a smelly, noisy outboard motor, although eventually I bought a little Smart Wave boat too.
I also got Marlborough Conctruction to build me a gazebo shed. It was under the size that would require approval and I put a small spa pool in there. It was really nice to have a warm bubbling spa bath and watch the shooting stars at night. A welcome change after all the years of misery in England and the spartan washing facilities that my caravan provided.
Meanwhile the council was turning down one application after the other on my main dwelling as well as on the sceptic effluent system. I was relying on certified, qualified local experts as I myself only had common sense to go by, but the council was treating me as if I was trying to pull a fast one. For instance, they claimed that I could sleep 2 people in each bedroom, two in the living room and an extra bed on the mezanine and so I would need an effluent sytstem with capacity for permanet habitation by seven adults! What the fuck was that about?
Both the architect and the engineer went round and round escalating costs with revised designs, but to no avail. I was beginning to wonder if this was some kind of scam they had going to milk wealthy people for the privilege of having a "life style" section, but I knew I was no where near the wealth category able to afford that. The engineer was very sloppy in his copy paste designs and entually I told him to take a hike. I hired Gould Tanks to do the same system that they had put in on a neighbouring section. When the council started objecting I pointed out that Gould Tanks was THE No 1 effluent professional outfit in the whole country and at last they relented on that.
Alas the MDC obstinately persisted refusing to sign-off my shed, even though they had given the go ahead and passed all the inspections. As far as I can tell, the problem was that they had since allowed a neighbor to pipe stormwater straight down the hillside to my boundary without teeing it into the existing culvert, so now they alleged my shed would be subject to inundation. I objected they should have raised that before approving it's construction, as it was a bit late now to do anything about it, but they were admant that I would have to get plans approved and pipe it safely accross my section.
I got a few quotes and it would cost about $40,000... significantly more than the shed was worth! In desperation I wrote to the Ombudsman, but they blatantly colluded with the official authorities, distorting the facts and alleging I had altered the water course when the alteration had been done by the sub divider, with council approval before I bought the section and long before I submitted any plans for shed. All I had done was to restore the natural water course which naturally resolved all the alleged objections too.
Knowing when to Quit
Meanwhile Chris Moran, the architect, had clocked up and dissipated $62,000 on non compliant designs for my dwelling. It then transpired that the original engineering survey in the LIM report that the council had provided was completely wrong about what kind of land this was. IOW the foundation designs would be unsuitable.
Besides all that, the area had recently been "rezoned" thus changing various restrictions and regulations. Also, the original subdivider had applied to section off more of his farm land, and that meant that existing water supply in the bay would not be able to cope during long dry seasons. Thus the council was demanding we install rain water collection from our rooves. I did say that wouldn't help, as there isn't much rain during long dry seasons and that any rain we mighht collect would be contaminated with accumulated bird shit off the roof. I said I would much rather just store extra water during the wet season... so the council kept their rain water collection demands and added a requirement for huge water tanks. In the interim, any consents that I had obtained, like permission to use a wet-back wood burner were due to expire and it was beginning to dawn on me that the estate agent slogan "Live the Dream" was a lie: Bureaucrats were turning it into a nightmare!
Escape to Christchurch
Meanwhile from England my ex, who had denied me even e-mail contact with our child, phoned up out of the blue. She told me: "Come get your son, as my new partner doesn't like children" and there is another whole story that I won't go into here, but I now had custody orders on the other side of the planet to rescind and had to make plans to provide a home for him nearer to a school. I decided to call it a day up in the Marlborough Sounds, and so I put my section the market.
I found a buyer, but as I had followed my brother's advice to put my land in a "family trust" to protect it from my ex coming back for ever more (Even though she had had already taken beyond her share and way more that she had ever contributed to our "matrimonial" property, I had to let Public Trust deal with the conveyancing. Everything was signed and sealed. It should have gone through, but now I was accused of having a "non compliant shed". I disagreed. I said the shed was built exactly according to the approved plans and MDC had no excuse for not signing it off. Alas, Public Trust lawyer only read the last line "... and there is nothing I can do about that" ignoring the rest of my (very short) e-mail. They unilaterally aborted the sale.
The millionaires who had put the storm water drain up the hill and who also owned a guest house on the section next to that, put in an offer on my land. Theirs was $60,000 lower and stipulated a clause making me responsible for getting approval and constructing the $40,000 council compliant storm water drainage. A total $100,000 hit! Another logistical nightmare. Litterally my life savings down the drain, to benfit who? Stinking rich profiteers and corrupt amoral authorities on a power trip?! I shook my head in dismay, packed my bags and drove down to Christchurch where I used the money I had intend to build with on a simple two bedroom house, then I brought my son over from England once all the legal issues there were cleared. At least that cunt of an ex wasn't getting her misandrist lawyers to oppose and demonize me this time!
Meanwhile Marlborough district council were invoicing me full residential rates for my vacant section where they provided not one single service and it was their intransigence on the shed that blocked me from selling it. I decided not to pay them and predictably they decided to send debt collectors to threaten and extort me... indefinitely... with no way to resolve anything at all. I refused to let them raid my home every quarter to sequester items of value and the collection agency didn't come back, but MDC sued me for the mounting debt with accumulating penalties and interest. I hired a lawyer. He wrote inane letters and ran up significant legal fees, but then MDC suddenly dropped the case. I think they had been advised that I would have a viable counter claim. Whatever it was, with no actual case against me anymore, my legal adviser clearly couldn't grasp the concept of needing a solution. Thus there seemed no point retaining him. I paid his invoice and just carried on throwing the MDC rate demands in the recycling bin for the next however-many years and tried to get on with my life for my son's sake.
New Legal Shenanigans
Roll on 2014 and suddenly I get summoned for non payment of the alleged rates. A very significant amount this time! I tried to hire another lawyer but due legal issues created by corrupt legal professionals on another ongoing issue I now could find none that would have me as a client. Public Trust were, however equally liable, but they were entirely on the side of the council and believed I should just keep paying the full rates on this useless section. They assigned me 5 different lawyers, all residing on the North island, one after the other. Each one just for a month before they retired. Each one adding a few thousand dollars of fees for unidentified legal work that I refused to pay. Not a single one did anything to resolve anything at all, but natually the corrupt judge, Raoul Neaves, exonerated them and excused them from further involvement.
The hearing was an utter farce. The MDC legal team and the Public Trust lawyers were seated at large tables where they could spread their documents and had jugs of drinking water, while I was confined to a bucket chair behind a barrier at the back of the room. In my submission I had claimed I would not owe residential rates bewcause I had no dwelling on the section, because nobody was residing there and no services were being provided by the council there at all. I also stated that it was entirely MDC's own fault because I was unable to sell my the section due to their intransigence on signing off my shed and holding me to ransom for drainage work that I could not aford.
The two faced judge did admit that my case was not without merrit but in the same breat dismissed my entire submission: He said that payment of rates was outside his jurisdiction and that I would have to file a counter claim. I also prompted MDC legal team that he thought statute of limitaions would probably apply. I just stood there and listened to the odious legal bull-shit for as long as I could bear it. Eventually walked out wiping silent tears from my eyes and wondering why the same statute if limitaions didn't protect me.
Salvaging What I Could
I had nobody to represent me. Well actually I did have lawyer dealing with something else and he said he would deal with that too, but didn't. I will address that in another expose. ... so there I was on my own in the court room. The MDC legal team and a hostile Public Trust sat up front at nice tables where they could spread their ducuments. They had jugs of water and glasses to drink from, joking about amiably as they were getting paid whatever the outcome, but I was relegated to a plastic bucket seat behind a barrier. Judge Raul Neaves sneerd that my defense was outside the court jurisdiction... so there was not much point me saying anything at all. I was sentenced to pay all the backdated rates, the fines and court fees... but given no way to do anything to stop them repeating this charade indefinietly.
One good thing was that Neaves did say my case was not without merrit. Once again I went out and tried again to find a lawyer to help me. New Brighton barristers and solicitors said they would, but first wanted to see exactly what Neaves had said. I forked out the fees for a transcript of the case and deliverd it by hand the moment it arrived. I hear nothing from them. I phoned and went to their offiice several times to no avail. On one such oaccasion reception said he wasn't in, but the door to his unlit office was ajar and I could see him peering out and hear him rustling in the dark and they were creeping me out now, so I told her I would like to collect my documents.
With little choice I went back to the other lawyer who was ineptly dealing with my other case and this time he did help me get the section out of Public Trust into a new trust so that I could finally sell it. He did demand I pay all the Public Trust fees. He totally failed to ask them to identify exactly what these fees would be for, as I had requested, but when Public Trust then still tried to hold me to ransom after they had been payed atleast this lawyer did tell them to get fuct. Graham (this other lawyer) real reason was that now he would have all my savings in his trust account. He and his useless barrister Greg Keene would be able to milk it to depletion, which is exactlyt what they did before holding me to ransom and dropping me in the shit when my money ran out. Neither of them represent me in the high Court when MDC took me to the cleaners there. In fact I didn't even know there was a hearing. Once again I was charged loads more rates, penalties and all the court costs by faceless "Justice John Smith". This was based solely on Raoul Neaves' previous verdict and I my side of the case was never considered by any of them.