A Queenstown pensioner has staged a sit-in protest to stop roadside paving outside her Frankton home being ripped up.
On Monday, after more than two years of wrangling with the council, Janet Rutherford put a chair on the last piece of asphalt outside her McBride Street property and sat in it, stopping contractors moving in with a digger.
Council staff arrived and called the police, who told her they were arresting her for trespass.
“They put me in the back of the police car.”
A few years ago, after noticing other property owners had done the same thing, Janet and her late husband, Robert, sealed the road reserve outside their home to stop their vehicles getting hit by passing motorists.
When told by the council the paving was illegal, their application for a licence to occupy was declined.
Despite her protest, the asphalt was removed on Monday, and she’s expecting a $4000 bill from the council.
Janet, who owned and ran Glenorchy Air with Robert for more than 25 years until selling up this year, says she was prepared to be arrested and go to court.
Then she realised a conviction would stop her entering the United States, where one of her daughters lives.
“I’m going there in April.
“That was the only reason I got out of the police car and gave in.”
But she still can’t understand why the council’s picked on her.
About 18 months ago, she and Robert counted 32 property owners in Frankton who had modified their road reserve, and about 40 in Kelvin Heights.
She believes the council’s not enforcing its rules consistently.
“It was not giving anybody any trouble at all because there’s no footpath on our side of the road.
“I can’t see the point of them being so awkward.”
Council spokesman Jack Barlow says permitted unless the property owner has a licence to occupy.
“Road reserves are important as they often contain underground infrastructure for which access may be needed at any time, and help keep the neighbourhood looking nice for everyone.”
Council staff tried working with Janet, Barlow says.
“Despite repeated attempts over an extended period to get the owner to comply, this was not forthcoming, and our last resort has been to remove the asphalt ourselves to return it to grassed road reserve.”
There’s been a spate of illegal road reserve occupations in Frankton, he says.
“We have worked steadily to remove these with the cooperation of land-owners.”
In the past two years, it has ordered the removal of paving or similar twice, while a “few more” areas of illegal occupation have been removed by property owners after discussions with the council.
Asked what other kinds of modification of road reserve are deemed illegal, he says each circumstance is considered on a case-by-case basis.