Donna Badorek, of Donna Doolittle’s Animal Rescue in Kaitaia, has come under intense scrutiny from the Far North District Council over the last two years following complaints by a neighbour.
A Northland animal rescue that has rehomed masses of unwanted cats and dogs has been shut down over a definition of the word “kennel”.
Donna Badorek, who runs Donna Doolittle’s Animal Rescue in Kaitāia,
has come under intense scrutiny from the Far North District Council (FNDC) over the past two years after complaints by a neighbour.
Now documents obtained by the Advocate show the council tried to take the veterinary nurse to the Environment Court and push through changes to the district plan which would impact other local rescue shelters.
In March, the council made an “application for declaration” to decide whether Donna Doolittle’s Rescue Facility fell within the definition of “kennel” under the district plan.
If deemed a kennel, which the council believes it does, it would mean she would need resource consent because it would constitute a commercial enterprise.
This is despite knowing the only money Badorek receives are adoption contributions for each animal, which go toward desexing, vaccinations and microchipping.
Unable to afford the court costs, Badorek has decided to stop running the rescue and rely on getting more foster carers on board.
The council has also banned her from having more than 10 puppies on her land, even though the council’s own rules state there is “no limit” on:
– dog ownership in rural areas
– dogs in residential or urban areas
– hunting dogs per hunter.
Badorek said she is now having to turn animals away.
“I’ve got nowhere to put them.
“Before that, I tried to negotiate with council several times to agree to let me have a certain amount of animals on my land.
“They declined every time, they would not budge whatsoever.
“They said I could have no more than 10 puppies on the land at any time. I’ve got 10 acres of land it’s ridiculous.”
The case was dropped after Badorek told the council of her plans to cease the rescue centre.
She received a letter from environmental services manager Rochelle Deane in May saying the council “have now withdrawn the application with the Environment Court”.
Whangārei barrister Julian Dawson believes the council “confused the definition and what Donna was doing.”
“They basically said any dogs on her property would be considered to be within the definition of a kennel and require resource consent despite that not being the case.
“Even if she had her own personal dog or guide dog puppy or took a puppy home from work to look after, council said you need a resource consent for it.
“The really sad thing is that Donna was trying to do something to help the community and the council in my view took a very harsh line and one that they weren’t entitled to.
“The environment court proceedings – not only were they trying to close Donna down, which they’ve ultimately succeeded in doing, they were also trying to change the definition in the district plan without going through the district plan process.”
The documents show the council tried to get the district plan changed to apply the definition of kennel to all local rescue facilities.
“Given that the effects of these facilities are no different from other kennels that house dogs while their owners are away from home and charge a fee,” the documents say.
If the environment court proceedings went ahead and the definition was changed it could have impacted similar rescue services, Dawson said.
“Potentially it could have caught more operations and required them to get resource consent.”
The saga started when Badorek and her mum Jacqueline bought 4.5ha of land in Kaitāia with the aim of building a larger kennel complex with upgraded facilities to allow them to rescue more animals.
Most of the money from the sales of their two previous houses went into the land and there was “a bit left over” to put two small roofs over their own heads.
But complaints from a neighbour, initially about the size of her new kennel complex, prompted numerous council staff visits.
Badorek had to pay around $20,000 to get resource consent for the tiny houses she and her mother live in, and for earthworks, site visits and wastewater approval.
It will cost another $60,000 for the certificate of acceptance, she said.
Council staff now consider the dog and cat pens on the site to be a kennel and cattery which would require recourse consents costing another $20,000 Badorek can’t afford.
Badorek said she now has “full resource consent, for our homes, land works and setbacks from boundaries”. She met the costs through money donated via Givealittle and the rest she got finance for.
The whole process has left her “upset and deflated”.
“I’m totally exhausted.
“There’s been absolutely no support from the council after nine years of volunteer work that’s helped them out tremendously… by saving them money by bringing these animals into my rescue.
“It’s so wrong, especially when so many other rescues around New Zealand are supported by their local council and recognised for their volunteer work.”
On September 19, FNDC chief executive Blair King and councillor Felicity Foy visited Badorek’s property at Foy’s request.
Foy, who has been long advocating for Badorek, said she asked King “to go out there see for himself what was on the site and take an objective approach”.
King refused to comment on the outcome of the meeting and questions emailed to the council also went unanswered.
The Advocate was told “no decision will be made until Dr Dean Myburgh has returned from leave” in mid-October and was re-directed back to Foy.
Myburgh is the FNDC general manager district services.
Foy said the council was “nitpicking” and the situation was “a reflection of the culture of the council”.
Attempts to gain information about Badorek’s situation had been blocked by council staff, she said, and she was keen to “talk to them about why they did what they did”.
“While I understand there is a need to follow regulations, where there is a grey area, we need to think, are we being objective to both sides of the story?.”
“It’s frustrating and embarrassing if we’re acting like the big regulatory man when we’re supposed to be neutral as a regulatory body, not taking sides. “
Foy said she hopes there is a good outcome once King has all the information and that “it’s made clear to Donna and anyone who has a rescue what they can and can’t do”.