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Stonemason meets legal brick wall

Stonemason meets legal brick wall

An Auckland stonemason has been jailed for six weeks over two incidents of serious damage to the environment.

In the Auckland District Court, Foketi Puleiku pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Resource Management Act for breaching tree protection rules and three charges under the Local Government Act for contravening the council’s bylaws.

The charges relate to two separate incidents in Epsom in 2004 and 2005 including:

damage to a scheduled Moreton Bay chestnut tree

damage to seven generally protected trees

destruction of a generally protected cabbage tree

blocking and damaging a public footpath

breaching six resource consent conditions.

He was also convicted of dumping earth, branches and other materials on a public reserve, which cost the council $11,000 to remove.

Auckland City’s manager of service requests, Jackie Wilkinson, says she is very pleased with the sentencing because environmental vandalism in any form is unacceptable.

“It is gratifying that the courts have recognised that serious damage resulted because of this man’s actions. We hope it sends a strong, clear message that it will not be tolerated by the council or courts,” she says.

The first incident was at 35 Owens Road in November 2004. Mr Puleiku started work within the dripline of protected trees without knowing the consent conditions and caused them severe damage. He also damaged a public footpath and dumped materials from the site at a public reserve in Mount Wellington.

The second incident was at 55 Epsom Avenue in December 2005 when Mr Puleiku constructed a stonewall on the boundary of two properties, destroying a protected cabbage tree in the process.

Ms Wilkinson says the council takes tree protection very seriously.

“Trees are a valuable environmental and cultural resource, it’s very important to ensure that we protect and enhance them. Any damage done to a protected or scheduled tree is not acceptable and these people will be prosecuted.”

During sentencing, Judge McElrea noted that Mr Puleiku was a repeat offender who had blatant disregard for the environment and the law.

Under the council’s general tree protection rules, two categories in residential areas (residential zones 1, 3a, 5, 6 and 7) require resource consent to remove, prune or work within the dripline of:

exotic trees if including the roots, are over 8m in height or greater than 800mm in girth

New Zealand native trees if including the roots, over 6m in height or with a girth of greater than 600mm in girth.

In all other areas, New Zealand natives require consent only for the latter. Girth is to be measured 1.4m above the ground.

To find out more about Auckland City’s rules for working on trees or resource consents visit www.aucklandcity.govt.nz or call 379 2020 and ask to receive a flyer on trees.

Ends

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