By Alice Peacock
A dispute over access to a walkway in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie has stepped up a notch, with the appearance of a shipping container the latest in repeated efforts to stop people getting through.
The container is the fourth attempt to block the pathway between Ellerslie Main Highway and Findlay St - two wooden fences and a brick wall preceded it, but were all smashed down.
The blockade is infuriating locals, who say the business owners in a nearby arcade are building the barriers to divert more foot traffic past their shops.
The pedestrian pathway was built by the Ellerslie Rotary Club around a decade ago on land belonging to another business. It offers a shortcut through the town centre and a convenient route to the suburb's train station.
The container appeared on the morning of December 13 - something of an unwelcome early Christmas present for the neighbouring businesses, who've already broken down the three other barriers in the same spot.
No one knows exactly how it got there - like the others before it, it popped up overnight.
The container sits on arcade land adjacent to the pathway and so has been legally placed there. It's understood the arcade's body corporate committee is responsible.
Spokeswoman Deborah Cunningham, who has admitted responsibility for the past walls, wouldn’t directly answer questions about whether she was behind the container’s appearance. However, she said she was in support of it.
"We've actually had some really positive feedback [about the container], so I don't see what the problem is,” she reasoned.
Not everybody sees it the same way - a petition is going around urging people to boycott the shops inside the arcade.
Attempts to solve the impasse have proven unsuccessful. The manager of Ellerslie’s Business Association, Megan Darrow, says an email thread between the Business Association and the arcade's body corporate committee has hit a dead end.
Ms Darrow says trying to reason with Ms Cunningham and her associates is like talking to a brick wall.
"We didn't receive a single reply to any of our requests to work with them in a more positive way, so I'm not confident at this stage that they want to work with us," she said.
Business owner Sonia Trautvetter says business has slowed for her and many others since the container appeared - without access to the pathway it takes people longer to get to the town centre.
She is resolute they'll solve the issue after Christmas: "We definitely haven't given up."
Until then, Ellerslie is stuck with a dead-end walkway and a shipping container casting shade over their community.