Tauranga pig farmer faces jail for illegal port excavations for makeshift ‘park’

Tio Faulkner tried to illegally expand his family's property in the port of Tauranga.

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Tio Faulkner tried to illegally expand his family’s property in the port of Tauranga.

A Tauranga man who tried to use construction waste to build a makeshift ‘park’ in the port of Tauranga faces a stint in jail.

And whether Tio Faulkner avoids a custodial sentence could hinge on his ability to pay a six-figure fine.

Faulkner appeared in Tauranga District Court on Wednesday for what was to be his conviction on six counts under the Resource Management Act. He was found guilty after an eight-day trial in 2021.

The charges stem from Faulkner’s efforts to illegally extend ownership of his whānau into the port of Tauranga and dumping hog manure into the harbour.

Concrete, polystyrene, plastic and wood were dumped in the harbor in what Tio Faulkner said was an attempt to create a park for his whānau.

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Concrete, polystyrene, plastic and wood were dumped in the harbor in what Tio Faulkner said was an attempt to create a park for his whānau.

Faulkner lives on Maori freehold land on Matapihi Rd and used a mixture of concrete, plastic wrap and other materials to construct a rough platform covering 979m².

His efforts were discovered by Bay of Plenty Regional Council during an aerial survey of Tauranga Port in July 2019.

On a subsequent visit to the property, council staff observed effluent from a crude pigsty flowing into the harbour. The pens contained at least 20 pigs.

Faulkner said the reclaimed land was part of his effort to build a park for his whānau, similar to Tauranga Memorial Park.

Effluent flowed from Tio Faulkner's pigsty into the stream.

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Effluent flowed from Tio Faulkner’s pigsty into the stream.

Although he was given two reduction notices by the board, Faulkner did not comply. He also locked the gates to try to prevent council staff from accessing parts of the property.

Water samples taken from a pond leading to the harbor recorded high readings of E. coli.

Prosecution barrister Adam Hopkinson, acting for Bay of Plenty Regional Council, told the court that Faulkner’s actions amounted to a serious and deliberate offence.

The affected waterway has great ecological and cultural value. Faulkner’s claim that he had the right to do the unconsented earthworks because he is mana whenua is inconsistent with the role of guardian of the coastal zone, he said.

Faulkner's piggery was located near the reclaimed land and contained at least 20 pigs.

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Faulkner’s piggery was located near the reclaimed land and contained at least 20 pigs.

Hopkinson said the regional council is seeking a fine of $189,000 to $219,000, or a six-month prison sentence. There are no mitigating factors that would warrant a reduced sentence, he said.

Judge Prudence Steven said her decision to impose a fine would depend on Faulkner’s ability to pay it. She adjourned the sentencing for two weeks to allow corrections to establish evidence of Faulkner’s financial affairs and the suitability of his property for a sentence of community custody.

Faulkner claims to have access to $10 million in a personal trust. McKenzie’s friend, Georgina Maxwell, assisted him in court.

Maxwell said Faulkner wanted to attend a restorative justice process known as Paa Kooti. The marae-based process has historically been used to remedy conflicts between hapū, she said.

A view of Faulkner's rubble mound.  He was found guilty of various offenses under the Resource Management Act.

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A view of Faulkner’s rubble mound. He was found guilty of various offenses under the Resource Management Act.

Judge Steven remanded Faulkner in custody until his next court appearance and informed him that he was headed for a custodial sentence.

Hopkinson opposed Faulkner’s bail, saying he was at risk of fleeing. In addition to claiming access to $10 million, Faulkner says he is an Australian citizen.

He was supported in court by family members who refused to speak to the media outside of court.