11 Jul 2018

'It wasn't uncommon to see rotten meat and used sanitary products'

5:56 pm on 11 July 2018

The neighbour of a property developer who received the longest sentence for breaching two separate building acts said she complained to council for years before action was finally taken.

Outside the Auckland District Court on Albert Street.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Ee Kuoh Lau, also known as Augustine Lau, was yesterday jailed for two years for breaching the Resource Management Act and Building Act.

It is the longest jail sentence handed down for breaches of the Resource Management Act.

Louise Richardson lived next door to a Mt Eden property Mr Lau was managing in 2001.

At one point Mr Lau had 12 people living in the two bedroom bungalow that he carved up into four units, she said.

"There was coming and going and revving engines and shouting and drunkenness and ongoing building work during the night with circular saws and drilling.

"He razed the beautiful orchard at the back and left a muddy stagnant mess - I think he had plans to subdivide but that never ended up happening."

Ms Richardson had a toddler and newborn baby.

"It was just utter hell and the council was really unhelpful. I would call them most days in tears, absolutely desperate to try and get the place closed down or get something done and they just wouldn't acknowledge the issues.

"Occasionally they would send someone out to inspect the site but nothing ever seemed to happen."

Her three year-old son's bedroom looked out onto the driveway of Lau's house.

"It wasn't uncommon to see rotten meat and used sanitary products littered out there.

"And he couldn't sleep through the night. He'd never been a good sleeper anyway and he found the constant noise upsetting."

The council wasn't interested in her complaints and it was only resolved when the property was sold and eventually reverted back to a family home.

"I'm glad they finally threw the book at him and that he's now clapped in irons.

"That pleases me immensely but I'll always feel very disappointed and let down because we were just good citizens minding our own business in our lovely property, and we went through all that hell and nobody was prepared to help us."

Auckland Council's regulatory compliance manager Steve Pearce said Ms Richardson's complaints predated his time at the council but much had changed since.

"Now we've got quite a profession around being compliance practitioners or compliance professionals.

"We're certainly better resourced and better skilled and able to deal with complex investigation like this."

The Mr Lau case represented about two or three years' work for two officers to get the case ready for prosecution, Mr Pearce said.

"[Now] we have officers around the city, around the entire region, who are able to go and respond to that.

"If you're going to completely wreck our environment and ignore council's directions, the court will find you liable and you will end up with some pretty serious penalty."

Council spent $1 million to clean up Mr Lau's property, including stopping sewage seeping into nearby streams, and cleaning asbestos and rubbish at the his properties.

But Mr Pearce said council hoped to recover some of the costs when his properties were sold.

He encouraged anyone who sees developments that appear dubious to get in touch with council so they can be investigated.

Mr Lau's partner Jiawen Mao is due to be sentenced next month.