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Developer pleads guilty to tree charge

Developer pleads guilty to tree charge

George Bernard Shaw appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday on a charge of destroying a scheduled pohutukawa tree and pleaded guilty.

In its submissions filed with the court, Auckland City Council referred to the aggravating circumstances of the offence including previous convictions for tree removal, Mr Shaw's commercial motivation and his efforts to escape detection.

In particular, Auckland City noted that Mr Shaw's guilty plea was a reversal of his earlier attitude, which was one of complete disregard for the damage that he had caused. Mr Shaw publicly denied any involvement and statements to this effect were published in media reports. He maintained this position until relatively recently when Auckland City disclosed the extent of its evidence against him.

The submissions acknowledged that Mr Shaw had recently made efforts to demonstrate remorse through a voluntary payment of $50,000 towards Auckland City's costs and a public apology made to the Planning and Regulatory Committee on Thursday 8 December.

Mr Shaw has now also agreed in principle to replanting a mature pohutukawa in a central position on the site. An enforcement order from the Environment Court will protect the tree.

Judge McElrea deferred sentencing until 13 February 2006 to allow time for a facilitated restorative justice process. The process is likely to include a meeting with those directly affected by the cutting down of the tree, so that Mr Shaw faces the victims of his offending. The meeting may occur at the Maungakiekie Community Board in February 2006. The public will be advised in January.

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The attack on the tree at 21 Mount Smart Road, Royal Oak, 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 (the dripline is the area around the trunk where the primary feeder roots that carry nutrients are). Demolition went ahead regardless and the site was clear except for the tree.

The tree 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.


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