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Illegal tree felling and Building Act violations

24 October 2008

Illegal tree felling and Building Act violations both successfully prosecuted by North Shore City Council

Two recent North Shore City Council prosecutions have resulted in convictions. The first related to a business and its owner failing to obtain or display a building warrant of fitness and the second to the illegal removal of protected trees.

Details of both court actions are below:

Business and owner prosecuted for Building Act violations

Failure to comply with safety requirements under the Building Act recently cost a North Shore business and its owner more than $15,000 in fines and costs.

The North Shore City Council prosecuted Tony Cardwell Motors and its owner Anthony Paul Cardwell for failing to comply with a Notice to Fix issued by the Council under the Building Act and failure to display a current Building Warrant of Fitness for their premises at 4/32 William Pickering Dr in Albany.

For these offences Mr Cardwell was fined $7,815 and the business $7,000. Total fines were close to $15,000.

The Court directed that 90% of the fines imposed was payable to the Council under section 389 of the Building Act.

At the sentencing last month, District Court Judge Blaikie said the stance taken by Mr Cardwell in not complying with the requirements of the Act, despite being given many opportunities to do so, was not helpful.

Council Building Group Manager Kelvin Goode says that the penalties should help deter others from committing similar offences.

All commercial buildings must display a current Building Warrant of Fitness, which certifies that its safety systems meet the standards required by the Building Act.

Mr Goode says that the council only uses court action when other methods of gaining compliance have failed.

“Generally issues can be resolved once the need for compliance is fully understood by the building owner. However there are situations when the council has no choice but to take enforcement action.”

Damage and destruction of protected trees costs offenders over $11,000.

On 14 October, tree contractor Peter Isaacs and property owner Peter Aislabie were fined a total of $11,000 plus costs for breaching tree protection rules in the North Shore City Council District Plan.

Peter Isaacs, who operates under the name of “The Tree Line” had removed a large Cedar tree and a Liquidambar from the property at 1 Corric Hill, Torbay. A Moreton Bay Fig had branches removed.

The owner of the property, Peter Aislabie, had engaged Mr Isaacs, and had instructed him to remove the trees although he was aware that there were restrictions on removal of protected trees within the North Shore City Council area.

Council officers responding to a complaint attended the property and prevented further removal of the Moreton Bay Fig.

North Shore City Council compliance and monitoring team leader David Frith says that the trees had been an attractive part of the local environment, and were a loss to the area.

Judge McElrea described the offences as moderately serious and imposed a fine of $7500 plus costs on Peter Isaacs, and a fine of $3500 on Peter Aislabie. An order for costs of $339 each was also imposed on each of the defendants.

The fines would have been significantly higher, but factors including voluntary replanting, and an early guilty plea were taken into consideration.

Mr Isaacs received the heavier fine, as being a contractor in the business of tree work, he had knowledge of the tree rules but had cut the trees without first obtaining a resource consent from the Council.

Mr Frith says that while the rules in the District Plan provide protection to trees, consents are regularly granted by the Council where good reason exists.

“The tree protection system allows the Council’s arborists to assess the tree, and to make a considered decision before removal is approved, where removal is appropriate.”

The Council does not generally charge for resource consent applications that are just for work on protected trees.

Not obtaining consent when removing a protected tree can leave both contractors and property owners liable to prosecution under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Consent application forms are available from the Council’s website. www.northshorecity.govt.nz or from the council’s Environmental Services department at 521 Lake Road, Takapuna.


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