Landscaper denies responsibility

Last updated 12:03 13/02/2013

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The lawyer of a Queenstown man charged with felling 110 native trees in a Kaiteriteri reserve has accused the man's landscaper of going "beyond her brief" and being in charge of illegal tree removal.

Michael John Davies, an Arrowtown resident whose family is worth $90 million, has pleaded not guilty to two charges under the Reserves Act and the Resource Management Act for employing an arborist to cut down trees on a reserve on a 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 one charge of contravening section 9 (3) of 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, with his case also remanded until Friday. He has not entered a plea.

The Tasman District Council has laid the charges.

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

She said she first met Mr Davies in September 2011, and during the next several months developed plans for their property.

His wife, Bridget 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 for work out of her league.

She found Mr Carney's business in the Yellow Pages, and arranged for him to take on the tree-felling work after checking whether the Davies approved of the choice.

She acted as the intermediary for Mr Davies, passing on Mr Carney's invoices once the work was completed.

She and Mr Carney met with Mr and Mrs Davies, as well as a builder they had employed, on February 3 to discuss the work that was to be done on the property.

Work started on the Stephens 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, which she assumed was close to the boundary.

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

She had emailed Mr and Mrs Davies several times following the tree-felling. They had been happy with her work and at no stage expressed anger or disappointment over the tree-felling in the reserve. They also never asked her why the tree-felling had occurred.

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Under cross-examination from Mr 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 in regards to the work.

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

She said Mr Carney, who had been at the earlier meeting to discuss the landscaping, 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 taking place down the bank on the Stephens Bay side was within the boundary, when she had seen and created drawings that showed where the boundaries were.

Mr McFadden said she had taken it upon herself to extend her brief. She replied that she did not agree.

- The Southland Times

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