Rich-lister faces decision over trees

Last updated 13:12 14/02/2013

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A landowner whose arborist felled 110 native trees in a council reserve near Kaiteriteri failed in his responsibility to tell contractors where his boundaries were, a court has heard.

Prosecution lawyer Julian Ironside concluded his case against Arrowtown man Michael John Davies yesterday by arguing that he could have avoided the tree-felling by simply pointing out where his property ended.

Judge Brian Dwyer has reserved his decision until tomorrow morning.

Davies, whose family's wealth is estimated at $90 million, faces two charges under the Reserves Act and the Resource Management Act for employing an arborist who, on February 27 and 28, 2012, cut down 110 native trees at a reserve on Stephens Bay headland managed by the Tasman District Council.

His trial in the Environment Court in Nelson began on Monday with his arborist, Simon Carney, pleading guilty to a charge of contravening the Resource Management Act by cutting down the trees.

Landscaper Christopher Donald, of Great Southern Landscapes, has also been charged with cutting down trees under the Reserves Act. His case was remanded until tomorrow.

The council laid the charges.

In his closing statement yesterday, Ironside referred to a meeting at the property on February 3 last year, attended by Carney and Carney's wife, Tanya, Davies and his wife, Bridget, landscaper Lynley Bird, and Davies' builder.

Earlier in the day, Davies told the court that he never gave specific instructions as to where the arborist was to work, and did not point out the boundaries at that meeting. Ironside said this meant he had not fully discharged his duty as a landowner.

When questioned by his lawyer, Nigel McFadden, Davies told the court that he had trusted Bird to carry out the landscaping plan, and he was "100 per cent certain" that she knew where the boundaries were.

Davies also told the court he and his wife were horrified by the tree-felling. Ironside asked how they had expressed this, as he had continued to pay for Bird's services well after the incident. Davies said he could not recall.

Under re-examination, he said he had taken the approach of resolving things with the council rather than arguing with Bird.

The court also heard from Carney, who said that on the day of the felling he took all instructions from Bird, and genuinely did not know that the vegetation he cut was in a reserve.

Under cross-examination from Ironside, he said he called council horticultural officer Kathy Tohill-Curnow on February 28 to ask her for permission to trim a beech tree and small trees and shrubs in the reserve.

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She had told the court that she told him he could do so as long as the vegetation was within the boundary, but Carney disagreed, saying he felt he had received permission to clear shrubs on the reserve.

Ironside asked whether what occurred at the reserve amounted to the clearance of small trees and shrubs. Carney replied that now he knew the boundaries, he did not think so, but he would class the mahoe and kanuka he removed as small trees.

- The Nelson Mail

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