19 Oct 2011

Rural commune in battle over dwellings

10:10 am on 19 October 2011

Families living a communal lifestyle near Nelson are fighting a council order to leave a small farm which breaks planning rules for multiple dwellings.

The move by Tasman District Council is opposed by people in the Motueka Valley who say the rules are outmoded and need to be changed.

Irma Jager and her partner Jan-Albert Droppers of the Netherlands have built a new lifestyle there over the past seven years.

It's a world away from their high-flying corporate days with a sports car and town house.

After establishing a gelato shop franchise from Nelson, they opted for a more self-sufficient life on a former 10 hectare tobacco farm.

They home-school their children and produce much of their own food.

Irma and her family live in the main house. But there are four other households on the property, living in three yurts and a straw-bale cottage.

That breaks Tasman District Council's rules on the number of dwellings allowed on rural land.

The council sent a compliance officer with a search warrant in June accompanied by the police.

They ordered the yurts and the cottage to be vacated within 28 days. Ms Jager says the order has been defied.

An Environment Court case is looming so that the council can enforce its evacuation order.

However, Motueka Valley residents have organised a public protest meeting on Wednesday night in Ngatimoti.