Wellington property developer Lance James maintains he broke no laws in authorising earthworks to be done at a Khandallah home, as his court hearing against Wellington City Council continues.
James, who was jailed for two years in 2010 for tax evasion, appeared in Wellington District Court on Tuesday to defend allegations he had breached the Resource Management Act by authorising the works to be done at a development property on Nicholson Rd.
He has been jointly charged with his partner, Ziwei Zhou.
The council was alerted to the incident by the owner of the neighbouring property, with council officers visiting the site in September 2017.
Council lawyer Nick Whittington said James had breached his resource consent by authorising earthworks well outside the scope of the consent he had been granted.
Among other things, the earthworks were too high, structurally unsound, and not intended for the laying of service pipes as James had claimed, Whittington said. They had also encroached onto the neighbouring property.
But while giving evidence on Tuesday, James said engineers' assessments of the structural integrity of the earthworks were flawed.
"They looked at a 1-metre-thick column of rock between [the two properties], and came to the conclusion there were stability issues, and defects existed in the rock column between the two properties which could undermine the foundations of the house.
"They completely missed the fact the foundations are 1.2m above the excavated level."
Engineering advice sought by James assured him there was no need for extra support to the foundations in the short-term, he said.
Cuts were made along the wall every 3m then shotcreted to protect the rock against the weather, with engineers checking each cut for stability.
James argues consent for the work was not needed because it constituted digging a trench, which is not included in the definition of earthworks.
But the council claims the "significant cut" into the side of the bank did constitute earthworks, and was never intended for laying service cables as James claimed.
However, the council's position was wrong, James said. "I don't agree with that at all. We specifically trenched so that we could put the services in the trench."
James' lawyer, Con Anastasiou, also took objection to Whittington's earlier statement that a trench was something which was "U-shaped" - with three sides.
"I know that's the trench used in World War 1, but the definition does not say that a trench must have three sides. It simply says it needs to be a long, narrow excavation for the specified surface."
There was no dispute the earthworks had encroached onto the neighbouring property, Anastasiou said.