Home­owner cops fine from coun­cil

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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, Auck­land Coun­cil en­force­ment staff vis­ited the site near Mt Eden and found signs of pre­vi­ous 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 the 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 pro­tec­tive of this spe­cial area,’’ the coun­cil’s re­source con­sent and com­pli­ance man­ager Mark White says.

‘‘In this case it was be­ing dam­aged and en­force­ment mea­sures were needed to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment from fur­ther de­struc­tion.’’

Lava flow forests are rare, oc­cur­ring 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. It is on Maun­gawhau, or Mt Eden, with tracts of na­tive bush.

Mr White en­cour­ages Auck­land res­i­dents to call the coun­cil 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 be­ing pro­cessed.

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