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Tree offender admits guilt and publicly apologises

8 December 2005

Tree offender admits guilt and publicly apologises

George Bernard Shaw, charged earlier this year with destroying a scheduled pohutukawa tree in Royal Oak, today made a public apology to Auckland City Council's Planning and Regulatory Committee.

Mr Shaw said: "I wish to sincerely apologise to Auckland City Council and the community and my family for the very bad error of judgement and big mistake made in destroying the scheduled pohutukawa tree at 21 Mt Smart Road, Royal Oak. If I could turn back the clock then I would. I'm deeply regretful and genuinely remorseful and ashamed at what has occurred. I'm offering no excuses; it should not have happened. I foolishly succumbed to heavy financial stress and holding cost pressures."

Councillor Glenda Fryer, chairperson of the Planning and Regulatory Committee, says that while the committee notes Mr Shaw's apology, it did not alter the facts.

"This was a stunning pohutukawa that was of great value to the community and it is incredibly sad that it has been lost. This was an act of crude vandalism by a developer who knows the rules and who has previous convictions for cutting down trees in similar circumstances," she says.

"Mr Shaw did not cooperate with council's investigation and denied wrongdoing until the extent of council's evidence was disclosed to him recently."

Mr Shaw has paid $50,000 to the council for costs and is due to appear in court next week on the charge of destroying a scheduled tree, which is an offence under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The maximum penalty allowed is a jail term of no more than two years or a fine of no more than $200,000.

Mr Shaw will also apologise to the Maungakiekie Community Board early in the New Year.

The tree is still alive but Auckland City is seeking advice about its ability to recover in order to decide its future.

The attack on the tree took place on 24 January this year. Two men were seen leaping from a car and chopping the limbs from the tree at about 10.30am. The council had received an application to demolish buildings on the site in 2004 but the application had been put on hold because of concerns that work would be required within the dripline of the tree. Demolition went ahead regardless and the site was clear except for the tree.

The investigation into the attack has taken considerable staff time and resources and involved search warrants across Auckland and in Whangarei.

The tree, located at 21 Mount Smart Road, was notable for its size and beauty, reaching 11 metres in height, limbs over two metres in girth and a canopy spread of more than 20 metres. Annual growth rings on the cuts indicate that the tree is over 100 years old. The tree was scheduled in the council's District Plan, preventing works within its dripline and all but very minor hand pruning. The dripline is the area around the trunk where the primary feeder roots that carry nutrients are.

ENDS

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