The Environment Court has declined a couple’s application for costs after they carried out illegal earthworks on their property. The cost to remedy the risks caused by the work cost the couple over $102,000.

The couple carried out earthworks on their property without a resource consent. The work created risks of “erosion, slippage and sediment run-off into the storm water network”.

After finding out about the work, the Council applied for an Interim Enforcement Order requiring that the couple immediately stop the earthworks. The Order also required that the couple engage a qualified person to assess the property and remediate any of the risks created by the work.

The Council were still concerned about the earthworks months later, as they believed there were risks of landslips onto nearby properties. The Council applied for a further Enforcement Order requiring the couple to engage experts regarding the risks that remained on the property.

The experts confirmed that further work needed to be done, which the couple agreed to. The Council then withdrew their application for the Enforcement Order, given the risk had been eliminated.

The couple applied to the Environment Court to cover their costs of remediating the work, which totalled $102,713. The couple argued that the second Enforcement Order was unnecessary, as they were already complying with the Council’s orders.

The Council argued that the Order had been necessary, given the risks that the earthworks still posed on the property.

The Court decided that the application for the Enforcement Order was a necessary flow-on from the original Interim Enforcement Order. Further investigations were required by the Order and had been carried out. The investigation found that work was required to fully remediate the risks raised by the couple’s illegal work on the property.

The Court declined the couple’s application and ordered that “costs lie where they fall”.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as a property owner, as mistakes can become costly very quickly. If you are confused about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Sarah Jamieson and Hunter Flanagan-Connors