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Farmer accused of destroying woodlands

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 14:50 02/12/2013
Rare woodland
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RARE WOODLAND: A photo taken in January 2012 shows healthy vegetation on farmland in the Waimakariri District.
Rare woodland
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ALL GONE: A photo taken from the same spot in June 2013 shows the land has been cleared despite being protected.

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A Canterbury landowner is being taken to court over the alleged destruction of protected rare woodland.

The High Court in Christchurch on Friday issued an injunction to prevent any further damage to the land while the action is before the courts.

The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust has brought the action against Netherland Holdings Limited (NHL). The trust says two areas of land on the NHL farm have been damaged.

The trust says both were protected by an open space covenant created under the Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust Act and registered on the land title.

NHL director Roelof Wobben declined to comment.

Trust chief executive Mike Jebson said yesterday NHL was aware of the covenant when it bought the property in December 2012.

According to the trust, NHL removed fences and destroyed about 2.4ha of legally protected indigenous trees and shrubs, leaving only a small section of protected land untouched. Jebson said this was done to help NHL facilitate conversion of a dryland farm to irrigation.

The woodland remnants were extremely rare and had high natural heritage values, he said.

One of the areas was also recognised as an indigenous vegetation and habitat site with significance by the Waimakariri District Council, Jebson said. 

Since learning about the landowner's alleged actions in early June, the trust had tried to come to an agreement over what the landowner must do to put the damage right. However, an agreement to return the land to its original state could not be reached.

Trust chairman James Guild said covenants protected some of New Zealand's rarest and most endangered habitat types.

''It is essential that we fulfill our obligations as perpetual trustee and defend the integrity of the covenant,'' he said. 

The primary objective of the trust's action was to get the landowner to restore what had been damaged, Guild said.

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