Auckland property developer Augustine Lau has been sentenced to two-and-a-half months’ prison for damaging seven protected native trees in 2014 after receiving multiple warnings from the local council.
Lau, who pleaded guilty to one charge of using land in contravention of regional and district rules under the Resource Management Act, was sentenced at the Auckland District Court earlier this week.
In June 2014, a contractor broke the trunks of three of the pohutukawa trees and one totara tree, and broke a number of large branches off three further pohutukawa trees, on Lau's instructions. The trees were protected by the operative Auckland Council District Plan: Rodney Section, and five were also protected by the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.
"Auckland Council staff did everything they could to make Mr Lau aware of his responsibilities, including that he needed to stop with his plans of felling the native trees at the site," said Steve Pearce, Auckland Council’s manager of regulatory compliance, in a statement. "We visited the site a number of times to inspect the works being managed by Mr Lau. However, he persisted and, as a result, we issued an abatement notice requiring him to stop these works in October 2013."
"It is relatively uncommon for us to end up in the court, and even rarer for us to seek a sentence of imprisonment; however the deliberateness of his offending and the significance of the effects left us with no option."
Four of the trees were seriously damaged, to the point of dying as a result of the damage, while the other three trees were also heavily damaged. Some of the trees were found to be more than 100 years old.
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