A Queenstown man charged with cutting down 110 native trees on a council reserve near Kaiteriteri, Nelson, is expected to argue he did not know any offending had taken place or that any offending was outside his control.
Michael John Davies, an Arrowtown resident whose family is worth $90 million, faces two charges under the Reserves Act and the Resource Management Act for employing an arborist to cut down trees on a reserve on Anarewa Point, part of the Stephens Bay headland managed by the Tasman District Council.
Davies owns property adjacent to the reserve, and the prosecution alleges that in February last year he employed arborists to cut down 110 native trees on the reserve without permission. The trees cut down were of varying sizes and ages and include native and indigenous species, including rare mistletoe, black beech and whitey-wood.
They had been located to the north and the south of Davies' property, leaving clear views out to the sea.
The trial began in the Environment Court at Nelson yesterday morning, with arborist Simon Carney, employed by Davies to complete landscaping work on his property, pleading guilty through a lawyer to one charge of contravening Section 9(3) of the Resource Management Act by cutting down trees.
He had been expected to defend the charges.
A similar charge under the Reserves Act was then withdrawn by the prosecution, with Judge Brian Dwyer remanding the case until Friday.
Opening his case against Davies, prosecutor Julian Ironside argued Davies was vicariously liable for the actions of contractors carrying out work on his behalf.
He argued wilful intent was present unless proven otherwise on a balance of probabilities.
Mr Ironside said he expected the defence to argue either that Davies did not know that any offending had taken place, or that the offending was outside the control of Davies. The case is to continue this morning, and is expected to last until at least tomorrow.
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