Abatement notice served

The owners of the Kakanui camping ground may not be able to collect fees from patrons after an abatement notice was issued by the Waitaki District Council, just before the busy Christmas holiday season.

The council issued the notice, dated November 30, to owners Allan and Chris Jones, giving 14 days to comply. If it is not lifted, campers can stay but cannot be charged.

The Jones' legal counsel, Len Andersen, will be filing a stay application with the Environment Court to lift the abatement notice and, if that is successful, damages for lost camping fees would be sought from the council.

It was "pretty miserable" to file the abatement notice just before Christmas.

"All the people have booked and that's why they can't be turned away. It's a deliberate act on their [the council's] part to do it at this time of the year, without any doubt at all," Mr Andersen said.

Mr and Mrs Jones' claimed the camp had existing use rights - which would be argued as part of the stay application to the court - so the camp could remain open for non-paying customers.

When the court would be able to hear the application is not known, but it may not be before Christmas.

It was also intended to file a resource consent application with the Waitaki council for expansion of the camp.

The resource consent application was a separate issue to the stay application, Mr Andersen said.

This is the second abatement notice to be served to the camp's owners in a saga that goes back more than a decade over plans to develop the camping ground on a 1.22ha site on the south side of the Kakanui River.

The first was not enforced by the council after the owners applied for resource consent to expand facilities at the camping ground.

Yesterday, council regulatory manager Paul Arnold, when contacted by the Otago Daily Times, confirmed an abatement notice had been issued after the Environment Court in June declined land-use resource consent for visitor accommodation, an ablution block, 30 powered and unpowered sites, signs and landscaping.

The court said it took "no pleasure" in issuing the notice, adding: "the motor camp-camping ground ... appears to provide a needed facility ... It appeared to us that the wider community [including the travelling public] would be the losers should it be forced to close."

Mr Arnold understood an application would be made to stay the abatement notice, along with a new application for resource consent.

If that was done, the council would continue to monitor the situation during the court process, but not take further action such as seeking an enforcement notice or prosecuting.

Mr Andersen, when contacted by the Otago Daily Times, said stay and consent applications were being prepared.

Mr and Mrs Jones' existing use rights for the camping ground was supported by legal opinion, Mr Andersen said .

"If he [Mr Jones] establishes existing use rights, then he will be seeking damages from the council," he said.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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