73 trees damaged in Otaki; council defends decision to prosecute

Press Release – Kapiti Coast District Council
The Kapiti council’s Chief Executive Pat Dougherty says he’s disappointed that the Council has come under so much criticism for seeking a prosecution in relation to extensive damage to native trees on two Ōtaki properties.

“It may suit some people to see this as a classic David and Goliath story but it simply is not,” he says.

Mr Dougherty says the Council did not take the decision to seek a prosecution against two property owners, and the contractor involved, lightly. He said it was done only after a thorough investigation by a senior ecologist, who determined, among other things, that:

• 73 trees on the properties were damaged, including 41 felled

• species included Tawa, Kohekohe, Silver Fern, Mahoe, Ribbonwood and Kawakawa

• very few of the felled trees were ‘dead & diseased’.

“Residents live in this District because they love the lifestyle and abundant native vegetation that provides many recreational opportunities. Trees are important to Kāpiti’s ecology and that is why naturally occurring indigenous vegetation is protected under the District Plan. These rules were put in place following extensive community consultation.

“Council has been very considered in applying these rules, preferring an educative rather than punitive approach.”

Mr Dougherty says there have been a number of infringements issued for damage or destruction of native vegetation in the District but this is the first prosecution Council has sought under the RMA in relation to damage to native trees.

“Part of our decision to prosecute was based on the senior ecologist’s detailed report. The other part was based on balancing the scale, nature and effect of the breach of the rules against our duties as a regulatory authority. This includes considering what sort of deterrent effect we could achieve by taking formal enforcement action. In spite of the extensive damage recorded on the two properties we have focussed on only ten of the largest trees (seven on the Standen’s property).

“We are also prosecuting the contractor because, whilst we understand some property owners may not be aware of their rights under the District Plan rules, we would certainly expect trained professionals to be.”

Mr Dougherty says Council has been reluctant to enter into a debate through the media and put facts in the public domain that it would be relying on in court. He says he is disappointed other parties haven’t been similarly restrained.

“I am very disappointed at the unbalanced coverage this matter has received over the past few days. It denies natural justice for everybody concerned.”

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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