An August hearing pitted Kaipara Flats land owners Ian and Karen Vickery against their neighbour Christine Thoroughgood.

There was a two-fold dispute about trees along the boundary line, which the Vickerys wanted trimmed.

Lowndes Jordan partner and IT specialist Rick Shera notes that one element of the clash was very familiar. The Vickerys argued that the untrimmed trees caused undue obstruction to their easterly view.

But the other element was new: that the trees also caused undue interference with the Vickerys’ wireless broadband network.

After considering expert evidence, Justice Sally Fitzgerald says in her ruling, issued September 3, that the Vickerys – who were attempting to overturn a District Court decision – did not have a case with their wi-fi argument.

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A workaround was available to the couple: placing a receiver on a pole some distance from their house (even if that was not the Vickerys’ preferred position).

But, crucially, she did accept that “undue interference with a wi-fi signal caused by trees could constitute an undue interference with the reasonable use and enjoyment of an applicant’s land for the purposes of s 335(1)(vi) of the [Property Law] Act.”

“This decision is interesting because it finds that, in some circumstances, neighbour A can require tree trimming, or removal, repair or alteration of a structure, on neighbour B’s land, where the trees or structure unduly interfere with the neighbour A’s wireless connectivity,” Shera says.

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Like many in the country, the couple have a fixed wireless broadband connection, which requires line-of-sight. Fixed wireless has been a mainstay of the public-private Rural Broadband Initiative.

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Implications for 5G: Property owner can be forced to cut trees if they interfere with Wi-Fi