Silly justifications for tree law

September 7th, 2009 at 6:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Homeowners whose are illegally chopped down by neighbours will no longer be able to count on council help once a proposed law change likely to become final this week is passed.

What is not made clear is that only if the tree was protected, would the Council get involved anyway. And personalyl it is inane to try and justify a law that prevents a homeowner from trimming or felling their own trees, on the grounds that by banning homeowners from being able to fell their own trees, you also ban neighbours from felling your trees.

If there really is a problem with legions of neighbours sneaking onto properties in the middle of the night and chopping down trees, then deal with that problem directly – don’t pretend that the current law which imposes significant costs on homeowners with “protected” trees is the answer.

During a recent subdivision case, the Environment Court had accepted evidence that “quite a number” of people illegally chopped trees on someone else’s land to improve their views and/or sunlight, she said.

But few prosecutions were made because it was often difficult to prove who had done it “even when it was clear who would havebenefited”.

And in fact we find out that the number of times this law has actually helped a homeowner against tree cutting neighbours is so low you can probably count on one hand.

While the number of homeowners who have had to spend both money and time on getting permission to trim or chop their own trees is well into the thousands as I understand it – maybe tens of thousands.

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10 Responses to “Silly justifications for tree law”

  1. homepaddock (433 comments) says:

    People plant 1000 acre trees on 1/4 acre – or smaller – properties. The trees get too big, create too much shade, drop leaves which block drains and spouting, grow roots which crack paths and drive ways . . .

    The current law discourages people from planting trees on their own properties in case they can’t chop them down because other people think they’re pretty; see Stephen Franks: http://www.stephenfranks.co.nz/?p=2331

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  2. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Great to finally see a small measure of common sense. I have a quarter acre bush block that was thick with tea manuka I need to clear an area for building our house and have spent the last 5 years cutting down 2 or 4 every year. Why the hell should I pay a tax to cut down what is basically scrub on my own land? Nuts.
    Looking forward to getting the chainsaw out on my next trip there!!! Now all they have to do is reduce the bureaucracy and cost around building a house and we might actually start building ours and help towards the country’s economic recovery. So far I have refused to build because of the costs involved in totally irrelevant and unfair consents and consultants fees.

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  3. peterwn (3,189 comments) says:

    If a neighbour chops down your tree you can sue for damages, and as it is trespass the damages can be significantly higher than damage to the tree. You only need to prove it on the ‘balance of probabilities’ (eg if the neighbour has benefited who else would have done it?).

    Perhaps there is a case for ‘triple damages’ in such cases.

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  4. Sushi Goblin (419 comments) says:

    Would a claim by a tree owner about a neighbour who damaged his or her property be able to claim via Disputes Tribunal? It seems unusual that something which is akin to a fencing dispute would be going into an “expensive” process like court involving the council and lawyers.

    If someone has damaged or killed a tree on your property through their trimming or chopping, a couple of photos in Disputes Tribunal ought to do the trick.

    Disputes Tribunal handle claims up to $7500, which ought to deal with most replacement costs for trees.

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  5. Brian Smaller (4,013 comments) says:

    It kind of depends on the tree. I think if my elderley neighbour had sneaked across one night with a chainsaw and tried to cut down the 45m Norfolk Pine that was 3m from my house and about 4m from hers, one or other of our houses would have been demolished as either the trunk or some branch crashed through the roof. In the end I paid $1800 for a professional to do it.

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  6. trout (912 comments) says:

    Is not the argument for restricting a person’s right to manage his own trees just another manifestation of the urge to force one groups’ ideals on the rest of the population. Every day it seems some lobby group with time and money demands that more rules should be promulgated to make everybody behave in the way the group desires.
    This weekend an on every spring weekend thousands of trees were bought for good money to be planted on urban properties – the prospect of some wholesale vegetation clearance is just ill founded hysteria.

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  7. KiwiGreg (3,211 comments) says:

    We only plant non-natives because the risk of never being able to remove a >3m native is too high.

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  8. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Reason number 4567 for not living in the city.

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  9. trout (912 comments) says:

    Pergaps the disincentive to plant natives will revive interest in the wonderful deciduous trees we can grow. Gone will be the PC crap that demands that natives be planted when deciduous trees would be far more appropriate. Visit Turangi and see the magnificent trees that show colour in the autumn and let light and sun through in the winter. OK, so they lose leaves – a small price to pay – buy a ‘leafbuster’ (TM). They even have native Australian trees in the MOD designed Town Centre and the Tuis love them.

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  10. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Brian Smaller – I reckon the main criteria is common sense, lose the bureaucracy!

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