Han­nah Bartlett

Nelson Mail - - NEWS -

Nel­son prop­erty own­ers stumped about their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for pro­tected trees on their land are about to be given a say.

Nel­son City Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Paul Shat­tock said a let­ter had been sent out to listed tree own­ers, ask­ing for their feed­back as part of the coun­cil’s re­vi­sion of its Re­source Man­age­ment Plan.

A copy of a let­ter showed that the coun­cil was con­sid­er­ing re­mov­ing the need for re­source con­sent for cer­tain works on pro­tected trees.

Own­ers could re­move se­lected branches to al­low light through, prune storm-dam­aged trees, prune large branches at risk of fall­ing, and trim branches away from build­ings, aeri­als, and power lines, all with­out a re­source con­sent.

Prop­erty own­ers stuck be­tween a her­itage tree and a hard place may get some wrig­gle room to deal with trees be­fore they cause dam­age.

re­ports.

Own­ers out on a limb

Nel­son’s Re­source Man­age­ment Plan cur­rently al­lows for ‘‘very lim­ited trim­ming of her­itage trees’’ with­out a re­source con­sent but any­thing more must go through the con­sent process.

Nel­son man David Mo­nop­oli has a her­itage tree on his prop­erty which over­hangs a road and has large cones that threaten to fall.

He said while con­trac­tors from Nel­mac had come and re­moved the cones on his re­quest, he was still con­cerned that one could have fallen and hit some­one or dam­aged a car, and he could have been li­able if the court found he’d been neg­li­gent in main­tain­ing the tree.

He said it might be safer to have the tree re­moved en­tirely, but it was dif­fi­cult to do that with a her­itage tree.

‘‘I think peo­ple need to be made more aware of what it means to have a prop­erty with a tree like this, that might do some dam­age or re­quires on­go­ing main­te­nance, so they to­tally un­der­stand,’’ Mo­nop­oli said.

He said there should be fur­ther op­tions for tree-own­ers, given the ex­pense of ar­borists and re­source con­sents, and it should in­clude a coun­cil fund to pay for main­te­nance.

‘‘I think there is this im­po­si­tion and peo­ple should re­ally be able to say what hap­pens to their prop­erty...’’

Mo­nop­oli said it shouldn’t get to a point where peo­ple felt they had to sell up be­cause they couldn’t af­ford to main­tain a tree.

He said while he’d re­ceived the let­ter from the coun­cil, he felt it would be bet­ter to have pub­lic meet­ing about it.

‘‘It is not usu­ally the land owner who makes a de­ci­sion to list a tree, but once listed the tree is not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the coun­cil...’’ Mo­nop­oli said.

Fol­low­ing Jan­uary’s wild weather, the Nel­son Mail spoke to prop­erty owner Lynn Cal­lis­ter who woke to find her pro­tected rata tree had crushed her fence and dam­aged part of the neigh­bours’ prop­erty.

She said coun­cil con­trac­tors had pre­vi­ously in­spected the tree but said no work was needed.

She said she could have paid to have cut it back, but would also have had to pay be­tween $500 and $1500 for a re­source con­sent be­fore any­thing could be done.

She said she’d been dis­ap­pointed the coun­cil hadn’t acted on her con­cerns be­fore the branch fell.

Stoke man Dou­glas La­mond had his painstak­ingly re­stored car dam­aged af­ter his neigh­bour’s her­itage tree fell and crushed his shed.

He said he’d com­plained to the coun­cil five times about the tree be­fore it fell, but as it was on his neigh­bour’s prop­erty there was noth­ing he could do about it.

He took the coun­cil to both the Dis­putes Tri­bunal and the District Court over the ques­tion of li­a­bil­ity, but in both in­stances the de­ci­sion found that the coun­cil was not li­able.

La­mond said the tree had caused him a lot of stress and with the dam­age to his car and the le­gal bills, the her­itage tree has cost him $18,000.

He said he still didn’t un­der­stand why the coun­cil couldn’t be held re­spon­si­ble.

‘‘If I get a chain­saw and I whack off [a branch], I’m go­ing to get a fine of up to $10,000... so that’s tell- ing me that [the coun­cil] are in con­trol of the tree [and should be li­able].’’

The root of the is­sue

The Nel­son City Coun­cil’s po­si­tion is that prop­erty own­ers are re­spon­si­ble for main­te­nance of any tree on their land.

There are more than 300 pro­tected trees in Nel­son, on both coun­cil and pri­vate prop­erty.

Group man­ager of in­fra­struc­ture Alec Lou­verdis said any ma­jor work or re­moval of her­itage trees needed re­source con­sents.

He said if emer­gency works were thought nec­es­sary, it still had to go through the coun­cil process.

‘‘If a prop­erty owner deems there is an ur­gent mat­ter, they need to ap­proach the coun­cil and that sit­u­a­tion will be eval­u­ated on its own mer­its,’’ Lou­verdis said.

‘‘They have to get an ar­borist in to have a look at it, it’s not just some­body say­ing ‘I think this tree or branch is go­ing to fall down’.’’

He said while there was al­ways a risk that an as­sess­ment could miss some­thing, that was a risk with any tree whether pro­tected or not.

‘‘We can­not pre­dict the ef­fect of any wind event or any earth­quake for ex­am­ple on a par­tic­u­lar tree.

‘‘It is what it is and there is al­ways a risk in terms of branches fall­ing or loose veg­e­ta­tion fall­ing down from trees.’’

He said peo­ple needed to ‘‘do their home­work’’ and get a LIM re­port be­fore buy­ing a prop­erty to en­sure they were pre­pared for the costs and main­te­nance as­so­ci­ated with a pro­tected tree.

As for sit­u­a­tions where a neigh­bour’s tree was caus­ing dif­fi­culty, it was still down to the prop­erty owner to be a good neigh­bour.

‘‘You’ve got to get on with your neigh­bours and if they raise an is­sue with the tree it’s for the neigh­bour to work that through. No mat­ter what kind of tree it is, the same prin­ci­ple ap­plies.’’

Tas­man District Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Chris Choat said its rules were not dis­sim­i­lar to Nel­son City Coun­cil’s. Un­der the Tas­man Re­source Man­age­ment Plan, mi­nor trim­ming is al­lowed but any prun­ing within the root zone needed a re­source con­sent. Choat said while the coun­cil wasn’t cur­rently in con­sul­ta­tion over the plan, it re­viewed the list of pro­tected trees on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Nel­son her­itage tree own­ers have un­til April 14 to send feed­back to the coun­cil.

PHOTO: MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIR­FAX NZ

Dou­glas La­mond took the city coun­cil to the Dis­putes Tri­bunal af­ter part of his neigh­bour’s her­itage tree fell on his prop­erty last year.

Part of the tree crushed La­mond’s re­stored $30,000 Holden HQ Premier when it fell on his garage. It also dam­aged mo­tor­bikes.

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