War of words

16:00, Feb 09 2013
Southland Times photo
Former mayor Warren Cooper is looking forward to sampling a bottle of the Two Paddocks Socialist Chardonnay, named after a jibe he levelled at actor Sam Neill.

Actor Sam Neill yesterday labelled Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Warren Cooper "a liability" and suggested he should "stay home in front of the telly."

Neill yesterday broke his silence over the illegal beautification pathways dug early last week beneath Queenstown's historically protected Wellingtonia trees. The work was instructed to begin by Mr Cooper without resource consent.

Emergency remedial work has since been carried out by an arborist to protect the trees at risk after their root systems were disturbed during the path excavations.

Neill said it was amazing that Mr Cooper had been "allowed to get away with yet another outrage."

"For a second time he has mounted an illegal attack on the protected Wellingtonias in the centre of Queenstown."

In 1996 Mr Cooper hit national headlines in an uproar about the same protected tree roots.


"Again he shows contempt for the things that people hold valuable here and contempt for the law of the land, " Neill said.

"Typically he then heaped abuse on those who dared cross his path, " he said, referring to Mr Cooper's criticisms of local historians as "mean spirited and humourless."

The paths were part of a Keep Queenstown Beautiful Committee project, a committee chaired by Mr Cooper's wife, Lorraine.

They believed they had approval for the work after months of negotiations through a representative of the Queenstown Historical Society.

"If the Keep Queenstown Beautiful Committee, the group in whose name this work was done, want to do something really useful, they could perhaps persuade Warren to stay home in front of the telly. He's clearly a liability out on the street, " a disgusted Neill said.

Neill said it was his view council contractor CivicCorp had then chosen to cover up for the mayor by saying these things were done all the time by people unfamiliar with the rules.

"If Mr Cooper is unfamiliar with the principle of resource consent after 13 elections, he should get another job."

Neill urged CivicCorp to reject a resource consent application to be made today "unless they want to stir up yet more anger in the community."

Neill turned up to view the exposed roots with historians and environmentalists last Thursday.

Although clearly concerned, he has not commented until now.

The Southland Times