Hoard of car wrecks results in $25k fine

Invercargill District Court.

AN enthusiastic hobbyist who had 800 wrecked cars on his Dipton farm has been fined $25,000 for his collection.

Roger Dunnage (57) appeared for an Environment Court sentencing in the Invercargill District Court before Judge John Hassan last Wednesday.

He was charged with breaching the Southland District plan in using the Lang Rd property as a dumping ground for the wrecked vehicles.

The facts heard during the sentencing outlined Dunnage’s hoarding efforts.

Since October 2017, he had accumulated vehicles and parts, storing them in paddocks at his farm.

Some of the vehicles were car wrecks from the roadside and others he had taken as a favour for friends.

Complaints received from neighbours alerted the Southland District Council (SDC), which went to the farm to investigate.

In November 2019, the council served Dunnage with two abatement notices.

The notices requested immediate cessation of the activities as well as a timeline for lawful disposal of the vehicles.

While he did initially contact a resource management consultant about applying for a discretionary consent which would allow the activity, Dunnage had not taken the matter further and continued to bring cars on to the property. The cars stored on the property in 2019 numbered 475, which then grew to 687 by December 2020 and up to 800 vehicles by late last year when he was served with a court summons.

In her submissions, SDC prosecutor Shelley Chadwick presented satellite photographs of the farm from 2013 to 2020 to show how the activity had increased.

People using productive farmland as dumping grounds was becoming more common, with enforcement officers dealing with it regularly, she said.

It was important Dunnage’s sentencing also sent a message to others who were not following the rules.

“This is an issue for the council and there is clear public interest in the sentence being proposed, that deters other people.”

She believed Dunnage was still continuing to put vehicles on the property.

Counsel Anna Goble said Dunnage had an addictive personality, was a hoarder and an “enthusiastic hobbyist” who thought he was doing the community a good turn by getting rid of the wrecked vehicles.

“Once he started collecting cars, he couldn’t stop.”

She said Dunnage did not run the operation as a commercial business, mainly using the car wrecks for parts.

“There has been no profit from any of his actions.

“From time to time he might have given a part of a vehicle to somebody to use,” she said.

A soil contamination investigation by council had revealed there was no evidence to suggest Dunnage had contaminated the land and he had already disposed of about 400 vehicles.

Judge Hassan said a mitigating factor in Dunnage’s offending was that he continued to collect cars on the property despite being told to stop.

He said Dunnage still found it hard to understand why he could not do what he liked on the property he owned.

He fined Dunnage $25,000, ordered him to pay investigation costs of $4528.13 and court costs of $130.

An enforcement order was to be put in place which would allow Dunnage to only have 10 unregistered vehicles on the property, other than those being used on the farm.

The order also stated if Dunnage was to apply for a resource consent to make storage of wrecked cars lawful, it would need to be obtained by August 1.