Press Release – Kapiti Coast District Council
Kapiti Council Chief Executive Pat Dougherty has apologised to the McLeaveys and Monkeyman Tree Services for distress caused over their prosecution for damaging native trees on two Ōtaki properties.
Mr Dougherty told councillors at a scheduled meeting this morning that the Council is advising the Crown Solicitor it considers the charges against Monkeyman Services should be withdrawn. He said there were two reasons for this decision.
“Yesterday the judge considered the McLeavey case and decided the offending was on the trivial end of the scale and it did not justify prosecution. We also heard yesterday that Monkeyman Tree Services had elected a jury trial. Given the potential cost of that hearing, and the judge’s comments, the decision was made last night to advise the Crown Solicitor of Council’s view.”
Mr Dougherty says he had defended the decision to prosecute over the incident on two Ōtaki properties because he was advised there was sufficient evidence and the case was sound.
“Our senior planning staff had been out to the site. We had a consultant ecologist go to the site and we had external legal advice. The advice was that there was a significant enough breach of the District Plan rules to justify a prosecution. What we will now have to do is investigate how that advice was so different from the judge’s view.”
Mr Dougherty told the meeting a respected QC has been asked to undertake a full review of Council processes and the quality of professional advice it received. He said it needs to be acknowledged that the Judge’s comments effectively mean that Council must now review the threshold at which a prosecution is likely to succeed.
Press Release – Kapiti Coast District Council – May 14
Following comments by a District Court judge today that the felling of native trees on an Ōtaki property was a ‘trivial’ offence, the Council believes it is no longer in the public interest to seek a prosecution against the contractor also charged over the same incident. It will be advising the Crown Solicitor in Palmerston North that it is the Council’s view that the charges be withdrawn.
“The Court’s view expressed today, and the intense media coverage this case has drawn, has made pursuing a prosecution against the contractor no longer in the public interest,” said chief executive Pat Dougherty.
“This case was always going to be very sensitive, and we endeavoured to align our protection measures of the Kāpiti Coast’s unique native bush with the wishes of this community via the rules of the Operative District Plan.”
Mr Dougherty has publicly acknowledged that some of the advice the Council received was not acceptable, and has launched an investigation to understand where improvements can be made to operations and the enforcement policy.