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Fair Go: Property owner forced to go up against ambitious North Shore Aero Club

We're familiar with the NIMBY argument against a racket and we don’t have much time if you’ve moved to the nuisance. Bought up next door to that speedway track or impending motorway? Suck it up, buttercup.

But what happens when the nuisance sets up after you've put down roots. Deep ones. Like the kind of roots supporting a tree that’s over 80 years old?

"I probably can’t stop them if they're going to take them away, if they're going do it at their cost. If they expect me to do it at my cost, different story," Albert Kinnell told Fair Go.

Albert is only slightly younger than the massive pines on his property near Dairy Flat in north Auckland. His grandfather bought a square mile - close to 600 acres – in 1905. He’s living on a scrap of what’s left.

Albert was mystified by a request from Auckland Council to chop down those massive trees at a cost to him of up to $70,000, for the exclusive benefit of his neighbour, North Shore Aero Club.

Albert’s daughter Heather Kinnell has a suggestion for the club.

"They've got 450 members: that’s 150 bucks each to get 70 grand. That's a tank of a gas. Done. If you can fly and maintain a personal aircraft, you can find 150 bucks, you know?”

Her father has lived there for 77 years, now with Heather and her daughter. Five generations who together witnessed the changes from mud track to motorway.

North Shore Aero Club is a Johnny come lately by comparison. Established in the 1960s, its approach angles were set by regulation in 1980. That included a fan – a height restriction radiating up and out from the end of the runway.

"We're in the middle of the fan for the runway for the airfield. Everything in the fan has to be below a certain level," Heather told Fair Go.

Above that imaginary fan line, the airspace is supposed to be clear of obstacles to allow safe approaches for pilots landing on instruments. Heather pointed out a big problem with this fan.

"Part of the land itself is too high. We're never ever going be able to comply with this rule, so we don’t understand how they got the rule in the first place."

It’s not just their trees. The land they live on, the public road outside, the hill across that road where the neighbours live in a house that’s also in the fan, along with the power poles and line running up and down that road, and of course, every car, truck and farm bike, and every person walking along the verge. All in the fan.

The rule seems like nonsense to the family. They can’t fathom how planes can still fly every few minutes if it isn’t safe. Conversely, if it is within the bounds of what’s acceptable risk for aviation, then why the rush to chop down their trees and why make them pay for it?

Fair Go took a good hard look at the rules and asked the authorities and the North Shore Aero Club what was going on here. What emerged was a new international aviation rule that had come into effect four years ago. It said if something is in the fan and can be moved, it should be moved. North Shore Aero Club said it simply passed that along to Auckland Council and let it do the rest.

Auckland Council correspondence makes it clear the North Shore Aero Club had insisted it take enforcement action. That was the understanding also of Airways NZ who had designed the flight approach. CAA checked and signed it off previously and checked again when the trees weren’t cut down. Still A-OK.

The upshot is Auckland Council has now decided Albert has existing use rights to tall trees and it doesn’t need to be in this fight any longer. It says it will not be taking enforcement action.

North Shore Aero Club admitted to Fair Go that cutting the trees was not 100 per cent necessary. If it feels strongly about getting rid of them, it can still take Albert to court - at the Club’s cost, not the ratepayers’.

Those ratepayers may also be interested in what is going on at this aspirational airport.

If you think the world "airport" means a control tower or a fire engine or expensive coffee while you wait, think again. Fair Go isn’t sure about the coffee but neither of those other things are present or required. And the word "airport" isn’t protected by CAA. North Shore Airport is in fact a non-certificated aerodrome operated by the North Shore Aero Club.

The North Shore Aero Club is on record in an Auckland Council report that it would like to build a bigger, wider runway capable of taking 50-seater aircraft at North Shore Airport. Locals are even now being asked to consult on a plan for the land around the airfield which may affect that intention. They have until April 28 to have their say. More may now wish to.

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Fair Go investigates what came first and why that should matter. Source: Fair Go