‘This is it’: lodge owner ready to sell up over sign stoush

A homemade sign advertising accommodation in Tūātapere must come down, the council says. Photo:...
A homemade sign advertising accommodation in Tūātapere must come down, the council says. Photo: supplied
The owner of a large unconsented sign in Southland which drew the ire of a neighbour says he is leaving the region over the ensuing fallout.

Three weeks ago, Ton Crooymans built a large sign marking the large seaside lodge he owns in Tūātapere, about one hour west of Invercargill.

Ton and Larissa Crooymans have called Tūātapere home for about 16 years. Photo: supplied
Ton and Larissa Crooymans have called Tūātapere home for about 16 years. Photo: supplied
Less than 24 hours later, he received an email from the Southland District Council saying he needed to remove it by October 29.

The sign’s size would likely trigger a publicly notified consent process, the council said.

However, the sign had already drawn the attention of community figures, including Mayor Gary Tong, who said he would take the matter up with council staff and see if he could swing a deal for it to stay up until a decision could be reached on consent.

On Monday, Tong confirmed he had been unsuccessful in his attempts and the sign now needed to come down.

"We've got to play by the rules on this. I'm guessing if you bend them for one, you’ve got to bend them for everybody," he said.

However, Crooymans said he had no intention of removing the sign, and was now looking to sell up.

The sign had tipped him over the edge after 15 years of dealing with council, he said.

"I have no intention to remove it at this stage. And then we will move on, we don’t want to hang around here anymore. It’s enough.

"We'll have to sell first. But this is it. Let someone else have a go at it. We’ve spent our life savings on this project [lodge], making something really nice for this area."

The sign in question reads "The Cliffs" and advertises Crooymans' 18 studio units in Tūātapere which he set up with his partner. Made out of two cattle stops and four perpendicular power poles, it is 10 times larger than what is permitted under the district plan.

Crooymans said being called out for it was a double standard, because a similar unconsented structure - also made out of power poles - had flown under the radar at his address for 14 years.

"It's not how the great south should be. People first - you can put it on your sign when you drive into the province, but is it the case?" Crooymans asked.

Crooymans is originally from Holland and has called Tūātapere home for the past 16 years. He believed the new signage was an imaginative way of promoting his business while giving a nod to the surrounding area.

Last month, neighbour Baerbi Kratzeisen confirmed to Local Democracy Reporting she had alerted the council to the unconsented structure, and said she would take things further if it did gain consent

When asked for comment, Southland District Council environmental planning manager Marcus Roy reiterated it was likely the sign would need to be publicly notified in its current form.

"The sign owner was given two and a-half weeks to remove the sign which meant a deadline of 29 October 2021," he said.

"At this stage we have not confirmed if the sign has been removed or not."

matthew.rosenberg@odt.co.nz

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