Auckland's 'serial' property offender jailed for two years

Auckland Council says the jailing of a "serial" property offender will help deter other developers from flouting the law.

Ee Kuoh Lau, also known as Augustine Lau, was today sentenced in the Auckland District Court to two years in jail for breaching the Resource Management Act, the largest jail term ever handed down under the act.

Lau has been labelled a “slumlord” for his practice of illegally jamming buildings on to residential sites, and has for years battled with Auckland Council, real estate agencies and banks.

Auckland Council’s Manager Regulatory Compliance Steve Pearce says the sentence will be a deterrent for other property developers considering illegal development. "We have to take a hard line with serial offenders who completely disregard the environment and the effects of their wrongdoing."

Lau faced 17 charges under the RMA and 10 charges under the Building Act, as well as charges under the Companies Act, for his illegal development of six Auckland properties. He is bankrupt, so is not in a position to pay any fines but has been ordered to pay $379,000.

Lau is already serving a two and half months' jail time for the destruction of native trees and today's sentence by Judge Craig Thompson will add to that.

Judge Thompson says the offending is the worst he has seen. 

“[Lau’s] actions were profit-driven and contemptuous of the law and the effects that he was imposing on the environment, the tenants of the properties and the neighbours of those properties," he says.

In four of the Auckland properties Lau managed, a poorly constructed sewerage system contaminated a stream near neighbours.

At one property where Lau was permitted to have one dwelling and one minor dwelling, Lau converted a single house and a garage into 9 dwellings.

At another, Lau filled in 900 cubic metres of earthworks at a property with rubbish, debris and fibre containing asbestos. 

"It is very difficult I must add to conceive of a more serious series of offences," says Judge Thompson. 

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