Public apology over tree felling charges

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 13:48 15/05/2014

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Kapiti Coast District Council chief executive Pat Dougherty has made another public apology over charges the council laid against residents for cutting and trimming native trees.

Keith McLeavey, 72, and his wife Lorraine, 68, of Otaki, appeared in Levin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to getting an arborist to cut three mahoe on their Oriwa Cres property last year.

Judge Brian Dwyer, describing the offending as "trivial",  discharged the couple without conviction and declined costs to the council, to the applause of the gallery.

Monkeyman Tree Services selected trial by jury for charges against his business related to cutting and trimming native trees.

Last month the council got approval to withdrew charges against the McLeavey's elderly neighbours Peter and Diana Standen.

At the time, council chief executive Pat Dougherty and community services group manager Tamsin Evans issued a public apology at a council committee meeting for the stress the charges has caused the Standens.

Dougherty apologised to the McLeaveys and Monkeyman Services at yesterday's corporate business committee meeting.

"The judge said the charges against the McLeaveys were at the trivial end of the scale and did not justify prosecution. On the same day Monkeyman Tree Services selected a jury trial. 

"Considering the cost of that hearing and the judge's decision regarding the McLeaveys, we last night decided to ask the crown solicitor for the charges to be withdrawn.

"We will be investigating how and why the advise that was provided to us by senior planning staff and an ecologist differed so much from the judge's," he said.

The council will organise an external investigation, he said, recognising the bar had now been raised in terms of how to protect native trees and bushes. 

"As chief executive, the responsibility for this process rests with me.  I apologise to Mr and Mrs McLeavey and to Monkeyman Services for the distress we have caused by these prosecutions. 

"Be sure we will be working very hard to make sure there is no repetition of this type of error," he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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