Accused did not order tree cutting - defence

Last updated 13:00 13/02/2013

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An Arrowtown rich-lister took "all reasonable steps" to ensure tree-felling work on his Kaiteriteri property was done properly, a court has heard.

Lawyer Nigel McFadden yesterday opened the defence's case for Arrowtown man Michael John Davies.

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 to cut down 110 native trees on a reserve on Stephens Bay headland managed by the Tasman District Council.

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

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

The Tasman District Council has laid the charges.

Opening the defence, Mr McFadden said Davies had been away from the country at the time the work had been completed and by employing an experienced landscape designer and giving them a landscape plan, he had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the work was done properly.

He had given no instructions to clear the reserve, and could not have foreseen that the tree-felling would take place.

No instructions whatsoever were given by Davies to Carney, and indeed there was no direct contact between the two.

Once he had heard of the tree-felling, he asked TDC reserves manager Beryl Wilkes for a meeting to look at making amends for the removal. He had telephoned her once and emailed her twice, but received no meaningful response, he said.

Since the land was a council reserve, Davies could not undertake any remediation work without resource consent from the TDC, Mr McFadden said.

Earlier, the council's lawyer, Julian Ironside, called landscaper Lynley Bird as a witness. Mrs Bird was employed by Davies to plan and complete the work on their holiday home.

She said she first met Davies and his wife, Bridget, in September 2011, and developed plans for their property over the next few months.

Mrs Davies wanted to remove an acacia tree, kanuka trees which were in poor health, and gorse and bracken, and Mrs Bird suggested they employ an arborist as the work was out of her league.

She and Carney met with the Davies and a builder on February 3 last year to discuss the work.

Work started on the Stephen's Bay side of the property on February 27. She recalled working on the top of the bank while others worked below her on the side closest to the reserve, close to the boundary.

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The main reason she was on-site was because her four-wheel-drive vehicle had been needed to act as an anchor for a wood-chipper belonging to Mr Donald, she said.

She emailed the Davies several times following the tree-felling, and they were happy and at no stage they expressed anger or disappointment over the tree-felling in the reserve.

They also never asked her why the tree-felling had occurred.

Under cross-examination from Davies' lawyer Nigel McFadden, Mrs Bird said Mrs Davies was the one who did most of the organisation regarding the planting, and that Mr Davies made no specific requests about the work.

Mr McFadden said Carney had made a statement suggesting she was in charge of the work, and asked if this was the case.

She said Carney was responsible for his own work, and she was not sure why he had made that statement.

"He heard as much instruction as I did."

Mr McFadden said it was disingenuous of her to assume that work down the bank on the Stephen's Bay side was within the boundary, when she had seen and created drawings showing where the boundaries were.

"If you knew where the boundaries were and if Mrs Davies had asked you to remove an acacia tree and gorse and kanukas, why did you allow . . . the extent of the works on the reserve?"

She said she was only carrying out work she had been asked to do by Mrs Davies.

Mr McFadden said she had taken it upon herself to extend her brief.

She replied that she did not agree.

- The Nelson Mail

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