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Prosecution for rare lava flow damage

Media release

13 February 2014

Prosecution for rare lava flow damage

An Epsom homeowner is paying the price for ignoring district planning rules with a fine of $16,250 for damaging a rare lava flow forest in central Auckland.

He was successfully prosecuted by Auckland Council after removing trees, plants and some of the historic lava flow from his property, which is part of the Almorah lava forest, an area of ecological significance protected under the Auckland District Plan.

Following a complaint from a member of the public, enforcement staff from the council’s resource consent team visited the site near Mt Eden and found signs ofprevious and current excavation work of the lava flow, the construction of a rock wall and the removal of protected plants and trees. The property owner was asked to stop works but continued until a formal enforcement notice was issued against him.

After further investigation, Auckland Council decided to lay charges, which resulted in the fine imposed by the District Court.

“This is a nationally significant ecosystem and local residents are usually very protective of this special area,” said Mark White, Auckland Council’s Manager of Central Resource Consenting and Compliance.

“However in this case, it was being damaged and enforcement measures were needed to protect the environment from further destruction.” Mr White noted that the resource consent process enables the council to limit the environmental impact of proposed development works, or avoid the most ecologically sensitive areas.

Lava flow forests are rare, occuring when vegetation grows on the lava rock left from a volcanic eruption. The Almorah forest is the largest remaining area of lava flow forest in central Auckland and has been identified as a significant ecological area in the Operative Auckland Council Isthmus District Plan and the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. It is on Maungawhau, or Mt Eden, with tracts of native bush.

Mr White encouraged Auckland residents to give the council a call if they have questions about what can or can’t be done on their property.

A resource consent application proposing extensive mitigation work at the Epsom property, including restorative landscaping, is currently being processed by Auckland Council.

Ends

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