I’m disappointed that the Kapiti Coast District Council has decided to drag an elderly Otaki couple to Court to face a possible maximum penalty of 2
years imprisonment or a $300,000 fine all for cutting and modifying seven native trees on their property.
Trees they considered rotten and dangerous to the safety of their grandchildren.
Peter and Diana Standen, in the 70s, the Standen’s elderly neighbours and the contractor who did the job are all to appear at the Levin District
Court on the 27th February.
They are charged with breaking District Plan rules relating to the protection of native trees.
The case highlights the need for people to be extremely careful in managing native trees on their properties and to be prudent by consulting with
council staff directly.
Otaki Community Board member Collin Pearce and I had tried, but failed, to dissuade council from what we consider to be heavy handed action.
The Standens. and their neighbours, cannot make statements as the case is now bbefore the courts. Mr Pearce and I are not condoning the cutting of native
trees but we believe the legal action is heavy handed when there are other options.
We are also appalled that on September 23 last year Council enforcement officers on a site visit had used a police officer to confront the Standens.
The traumatised Standens, upon seeing the policeman at their door, had feared the worse for their children and grandchildren
We want the court of public opinion to support our call for council to grant them amnesty or impose the minimum penalty.
We have made site visits to the site. Our understanding is that the majority of the trees were rotten and posed a danger to their grandchildren who frequently play under
the trees when they visit.
The trees, on the Standen’s property, are part of a native bush stretching over 22 properties.
It had recently been designated an ecological site under the Proposed District Plan with an additional 20m buffer that cuts through several homes. Such ecological sites with extensive buffers have become a contentious issue with irate landowners across the district.
Council staff have responded to our appeals by pointing out that a lack of enforcement action would lead to a precedent making it difficult to continue to enforce the protection of native trees.
Cr Gurunathan adds:”While acknowledging that concern, I challenge the Council CEO to explain why, in the case of the dangerous Collmog Bridge on an Otaki Gorge subdivision, the developer has not been prosecuted despite repeatedly thumbing his nose at council’s infringement notices! Some may consider this a double standard.”
A significant section of our community will also not have missed the irony of a council bent on prosecuting these elderly, who have mistakenly modified these trees, with the legitimacy council has given to Crown agency NZTA which is now starting to destroy hectares of native bush, dunes and wetlands across the whole district.
A key reason for the expressway was the prevention of accidents!