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Local Focus: Access denied through public land planted in kiwifruit for just $2 a year

Hastings District Council says it does not know how many agreements there are for people to use public land, typically to neighbouring landowners at peppercorn rentals.

Hastings District Council General Counsel Scott Smith said there could be thousands of agreements.

“They serve two purposes,” he said.

“It means that the land is made use of, if there is no public use for it at the time.

“But it also saves money for the ratepayers because we don’t have to upkeep that section of road.

He said the public still had access to the land.

“That can cause some problems in some situations, especially in the rural area where people have right of access across some farms.

“That can cause problems for some farming operations.

“So often there are things to work through, but generally it works pretty well.”

One such agreement runs from the end of the 50m sealed section Flanders Road, off Napier Road near Havelock North, down to the Karamu Stream.

Towards the stream the paper road widens to accommodate any future bridge across the stream to St Georges Rd.

The 1974 agreement to occupy the 1.4ha of Heretaunga Plains land is for just $2 a year.

Kiwifruit grows on the land and neighbour Robert Flanders said he has plans to plant more.

“I lease this in perpetuity and it is my land,” he said.

Council said the license to occupy did not include buildings and in 2019 instructed Flanders to move or disassemble the buildings within 9 months.

But by mid 2021 he had still not complied.

Smith said while Council could rescind the agreement it was working with Mr Flanders to remove the unconsented buildings and persuade him to allow public access but it was “not an urgent task” and there was little demand from anyone else to use the land.

“I heard a whisper that the Regional Council might be thinking about something along the Karamu Stream, but I haven’t heard anything from them about that.”

Flanders said any cycle path along the Karamu Stream could not exit to Flanders Road because he had exclusive use of the land.

To add to Robert Flander’s local-government woes, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council said last month it called the fire brigade to put out a fire on the paper road.

The fire was inside the Hastings winter air shed, where open fires are banned in winter to prevent air pollution.

Flanders said he “phoned everyone” to make sure the fire was legal.

The Regional Council said Flanders had received bad advice about fires and it would not prosecute.

The fire brigade would have needed a map to find the property, because the Flanders Rd sign has gone missing.

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