Plants ripped out in land dispute
A Kapiti butterfly trust is considering taking a paintball business to court after about 500 swan plants were ripped up, killing up to 20,000 larvae, during a dispute over land.
Kapiti Monarch Butterfly Trust member Greg Rudings said the land at Lindale was to be used for a new tourist attraction called Butterfly World. However the land owner had since leased the land to Adrenalin Paintball's Jason Newport.
The Kapiti Monarch Butterfly Trust was set up in May 2011, to help increase the numbers of monarch butterflies in Kapiti, with Mayor Jenny Rowan on board as a patron.
About 50 Kapiti schoolchildren planted seeds to help grow swan plants, which were then nurtured at Gus Evans' Nursery.
Mr Rudings said the trust had an informal agreement with land owner Murray Cole to plant the trees on his land at Lindale, in late 2011.
"We're a charitable trust, and are set up as such. At the beginning we approached Murray Cole about using the land, for free at first, with the idea that we'd set up a lease agreement once the butterfly farm had some income," Mr Rudings said.
The swan plants grew to about one metre tall after being planted on the site in late 2011, and had been laden with thousands of caterpillar larvae, he said.
Profit was to be made out of tours of the butterfly farm, and from the possible sale of butterflies.
However, with no lease agreement in place, Mr Cole gave Adrenalin Paintball's Jason Newport a lease for the land in November last year, with Mr Newport taking over the land from February 1.
Mr Newport was initially patient about the butterfly operation being on the land, but had had enough by Friday and pulled out the swan plants.
"I feel like I'd been really reasonable to Greg," he said. "Murray Cole had actually told me I could start clearing the land a month early, before my payments started on February 1.
"Greg told me about the farm, so I waited even though I had a formal lease. The fact is I wanted a date so I could start work on getting my business going."
After discussions with Mr Rudings early this month, Mr Newport asked for an exact date to start clearing the land.
Mr Rudings did not have a date, because he needed to meet with the owner of the land first, so Mr Newport pulled the plants out on Friday.
"I'd waited long enough. I'm paying for the land, and for some reason Greg thought he owned it, and didn't want me using it."
Mr Cole said he "recalled" there being an arrangement with the butterfly trust, but believed they were not going to lease the land.
"I don't know the exact details of it, I don't deal with that stuff," he said.
"Yes they were using my land, but they never had a formal lease."
Mr Rudings said he plans to take Mr Newport to court for the damage caused.
Mr Rudings said he will be looking to restart the farm, but said it was a shame the hard work of school children had been undone.
"To have 50 school children come and plant these, and that to be gone, it's devastating.
"I'm not sure yet what the future of the butterfly farm will be, but I want Jason to pay for us to buy new plants."