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Fair Go: Dunedin man outraged council demanding his firewood 'awning' needs consenting - 'It’s really pathetic'

Remember the battle over the Dunedin treehouse?

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Richard Anderson lives near Dunedin’s famous Oke family treehouse, which was deemed by Dunedin City Council to be in breach of the Building Code.

Well, now there’s another small structure that’s got the same council hot under the collar – this time, a piece of tin for keeping firewood dry.

Richard Anderson’s been told to pull down the seven-metre sheet of tin attached to the back fence of his Mosgiel home, because the Dunedin City Council claims it’s in breach of local and Building Act rules.

“It’s really pathetic… as if they’ve got nothing better to do,” says Mr Anderson.

The spat started after one of Mr Anderson’s neighbours complained about his garden shed. When council inspectors came to visit, they had a look around.

“Therein lies the problem… whilst here, in their wisdom, they decided to look at other issues around – two garden sheds and the firewood shelter.”

He was told the council was obliged to check out all structures on the property once a complaint had been received – but it seems that didn’t extend to Mr Anderson’s neighbour, who also appears to be in breach of the rules himself.

“It’s not fair, and it’s not reasonable in the way they approach it,” he said.

The council told Fair Go it had legal advice that it was obliged to investigate all structures on a property, but the council refused to provide a copy of its legal advice and cases it relied on for precedence, citing legal privilege.

Mr Anderson fixed everything else on the council’s list, but he’s holding firm over his firewood awning.

“It doesn’t pose a danger to anyone, and it’s pretty sturdy.”

It’s also keeping his firewood dry – because without it, he would be in breach of another local rule, burning wet wood.

“I’ve certainly heard of council having words with people about emissions [when they’ve used wet firewood],” he said.

The council told Mr Anderson they believe the awning is a ‘building structure’ but won’t explain why – despite his requests for clarification. It told Fair Go to be an awning, it would need to be covered in a ‘lightweight’ material.

The Building Act does allow for an exemption to build awning structures.

Dunedin City Council told Fair Go the awning is not an awning – it’s an illegal structure under the Building Act, but wouldn’t explain why it didn’t meet the threshold for an exemption.

It also made a suggestion – Mr Anderson could store his firewood in a wood storage box, available from a hardware shop.