‘Mafia’: Couple sue Auckland council for seeking $20,000 court costs after dispute

An Auckland couple are to pay the council $20,000 in costs related to their illegal landscaping. Photo / 123RF

He sought $20,000 in costs after an Environmental Court case, but Auckland council found themselves chasing after the money when important documents related to a long-running and bitter dispute surfaced. been lost.

The court has now apologized to council for the error, which has been identified by the council’s legal team.

The latest court ruling was the end of years of stampedes over illegal excavation work on a couple’s rental property in Avondale.

Alexander and Emanuella Banora told Open Justice in a blistering attack on Auckland council that it was like the “mafia”, and New Zealand courts, judges and lawyers were “corrupt”.

An Auckland couple are to pay the council $20,000 in costs related to their illegal landscaping.  Photo / 123RF
An Auckland couple are to pay the council $20,000 in costs related to their illegal landscaping. Photo / 123RF

They said they had no choice but to pay the $20,000 fee after the latest legal battle.

“The decision is corrupt. Yes, we will pay the money. Do we have a choice?” says Emmanuella Banora.

Alexander Banora was fined in 2019 for carrying out earthworks on his property, reported at the time as “the removal of 18 meters of trail and the concreting of a storm drain culvert”.

He claimed nearby municipal works had caused sewage to spill onto his property, which he was trying to address.

Banora’s non-consensual works resulted in the closure of a public road leading to a communal reserve, with earthworks spread over almost 700 square meters of flood-prone land.

A $67,000 fine was reduced on appeal to $44,550 – a “minor victory,” Banora said.

In 2016, the council sought the help of the court to ask the Banoras to respect the work they were doing on the property.

A work order was issued, meaning the council could ask the Banoras to stop work that violated its resource management rules.

Last month’s costs decision ties in with the substantive decision in December 2019, when the Environmental Court denied a Banoras’ request to again vary the enforcement order issued in 2016, which had already been issued. changed with their consent.

Banora then argued that he was tricked into accepting the change, which the court disputed.

A request for costs was filed by the council in January 2020, but Judge Craig Thompson said in the recent decision that “unfortunately” the filing had been misplaced and the request was not dealt with until an inquest was n was not made by the council.

“The file has been located and the matter has been brought to my attention. I apologize for the delay,” Judge Thompson said.

On costs, he said excerpts from the substantive decision made it “very clear” that the board was blameless in the matter.

The Banoras told Open Justice they moved to New Zealand in 1993, but declined to say where they came from.

Alexander Banora, an engineer formerly with New Zealand Steel, said they initially liked living here but say that view has now been colored by their experiences.

They suggested they were “victims” and unjustly fined for being foreigners.

Emanuella Banora felt the Auckland council was as “powerful as Queen Elizabeth”, while her husband described it as similar to the “mafia”.

“The problem is that they can do whatever they want, and nobody can do anything to them,” they said.

A senior member of the council’s legal services team, Christian Brown, told Open Justice that the statements were completely untrue.

The tribunal also noted in its earlier decision that the history of the dispute between the Banoras and the Auckland council was “sad”.

“Mr. Banora has apparently been quite unable to accept that those engaged to advise and assist him have acted professionally; that the council simply, and rightly, wishes that the land and works which therein be ‘straightened’.”

He said the courts are society’s mechanism for resolving disputes objectively and in accordance with the law.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Banora cannot accept this, but there is a time when the positions of other parties, and the outcome of such an old issue, must take priority over his inability to accept that he has no demonstrable facts, fairness or merit on his part.”

Justice Thompson agreed with the board’s argument on the cost issue that the arguments were without merit.

‘There was no merit in Mr and Mrs Banora’s position, and it is my very clear belief that they should be required to reimburse the council for the costs to which it was subjected.’

Christian Brown said it was not uncommon for the council to be awarded costs, particularly in cases where the lawsuits filed were without merit.

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