Environment Minister Amy Adams has leapt to the defence of an elderly couple being prosecuted for felling and trimming native trees, saying the case shows why the Resource Management Act needs reform.
"Many RMA rules around the country have slipped into nonsense territory," Adams said after The Dominion Post reported on environmentalists Peter Standen, 77, and wife Diana, 74, of Otaki, being taken to court by Kapiti Coast District Council for felling and trimming seven trees they believed were rotten and dangerous.
"This couple has spent a lot of time caring for their environment and gone to the effort of getting an arborist," Adams said.
"We are not talking about some yob with a chainsaw with a tree he did not like. They got a specialist saying they were dangerous... it appears so eminently sensible... the outcome seems ridiculous.
"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?"
She supported the right of councils to identify and protect significant trees but "blanket prohibition on every piece of vegetation of a certain sort with no allowances, exceptions, or recognition that people have the fundamental right to deal with their own property in a certain way is getting a bit crazy".
Kapiti councillor Gavin Welsh defended the council's actions, saying the destruction and "severe pruning" of trees on the Standens' and their neighbours' properties was extensive, involving more than 70 trees.
"As it happens, we have limited the prosecution to just seven trees, so council is not seeking anywhere near the penalties it could.
"I really feel for the people at the centre of this case, but the decision to prosecute wasn't taken lightly. Property owners have a responsibility to uphold the law, and council staff were just doing the job elected members have asked them to do.
"This has been a difficult case for all concerned, but we hope it will provide a deterrent to other property owners and seek to make people more aware of a need to treat the environment with respect."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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