Millionaire property developer Donghua Liu has appeared in court on charges he carried out excavation work without resource consent.
The Environment Court hearing followed his earlier pleas of not guilty to six charges of resource consent violation brought by Auckland Council in 2015.
The council alleged Liu allowed the demolition of a stone wall and the cutting down of trees without resource consent on land where he planned to build an ambitious housing project.
On Wednesday morning, the Environment Court heard excavation had been carried at properties on Gillies Ave in central Auckland by means of “mechanical action”.
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Debate centred around the purpose of a number of holes that were dug at the site, which defence lawyer Michael Savage argued were to allow for construction of a fence.
However council senior archaeologist Myfanwy Eaves said the holes were clearly intended for something else.
She said the holes were “dismally shallow”, and not deep enough for a fence.
Liu sat at the back of court with a translator and left at one point to take a phone call.
He became a New Zealand citizen in 2010 with the backing of former customs minister Maurice Williamson and then-Auckland mayor John Banks.
The controversial businessman also made headlines when he was charged with assaulting his wife and her mother in 2013.
Williamson was forced to quit as a minister as a result of that case, after it emerged he made a call to police after Liu’s arrest for the alleged violence.
At the time, prime minister John Key said Williamson’s actions were a “significant error of judgement”.
Williamson strongly denied attempting to influence the investigation.
The assault charges against Liu were dropped in 2015.
In October 2014, Liu was fined almost $20,000 for breaching the Resource Management Act and the Building Act.
The fines related to renovations and extensions on two properties worth $6 million in Remuera and Epsom.