Kapiti Coast District Council has backed down in its legal fight against a pair of elderly environmentalists who felled native trees… Kay Blundell, Dominion Post, 4 April 2014
Hitting the headline for the wrong reasons
By Roger Childs
The Case of the Missing Native Trees has been handled badly from the start and has ended in humiliation for the KCDC. Having shot itself in both feet the council now has egg all over its face.
The District Plan, currently under review, states that people cannot modify naturally occurring vegetation and this is what Otaki’s Diana and Peter Standen were deemed to have done.
The couple are keen conservationists, and arranged for an arborist to deal with tangled and broken branches, dead, diseased and dangerous trees late last year. In November KCDC told them to stop as legal action was pending.
Information and misinformation
To anyone reading the news about the case in November, there were concerns that the council was overstepping the mark. What were the facts?
- The Standens were tidying up an area of native trees.
- They had employed a reputable company: Monkeyman Tree Services.
- The arborist, Craig Eddie, was following the procedures laid down in a KCDC pamphlet.
Unfortunately the council did not find out about fact 3 until recently. As a consequence the Standens went through a lot of unnecessary stress and only now have been vindicated for the conservation work they were carrying out.
Not surprisingly there was a range of views on the issue as it played out.
The support of four councillors were required before the Council could review the case (under standing Orders). Councillors Jackie Elliott, David Scott and K. Gurunathan supported this action, but failed to enlist a fourth councillor needed — such as Otaki’s Cr Penny Gaylor.
Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, weighed in with her opinion. Trees, indigenous or not, get old, diseased, die, can be dangerous. We are talking about a 70-year-old couple dealing with vegetation in their own backyard. Do we need a council to get so uppity about what seems like a very sensible reaction?
However Cr Welsh was adamant: property owners with native trees on their land need to safeguard that ecology and be aware that if they don’t there will be consequences.
There was an impression given that the Standens had virtually clear-felled an area. The Mayor, Ross Church, told KIN in March that 70 trees were affected, 41 of which had been cut down.
Up before the courts?
So the KCDC charged the Standens with offences related to 7 trees
- 3 kohekohe
- 3 tawa
- 1 mahoe
What about the other 63 trees?
It’s now all academic, as the Standens will not be charged and faced with a hefty fine or time behind bars. Sadly the KCDC started a process without doing the homework necessary and caused considerable distress to an elderly couple who are dedicated environmentalists. As Diane Standen puts it: We love native bush . . . we would never dream of damaging it.
Naturally there have been attempts to save face. Ross Church stated the obvious: If we had found out about the information earlier, things would have been different months ago…
The outcome is ultimately the best one, but Kapiti citizens will remain angry that the large council staff and their elected representatives have let them down by
- not doing their research
- wasting a lot time and money
- giving the area a bad press across the nation
- causing an elderly, community minded couple months of stress.