Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Plant wisely to avoid future problems
It is the time of year when we look at our trees, shrubs and climbing plants and plan some seasonal maintenance – trimming back exuberant spring growth for a start.
Perhaps we might also be thinking about new purchases to provide summer shade, colour and interest, fill a gap or screen an unwanted view.
Property owners have a right to enhance their properties with trees and other plants, provided this does not unduly interfere with their neighbours’ rights.
And for most people, trees are a community asset as well as being essential to the health of the planet.
But with new plantings do consider things like position, eventual size and root spread – as well as growth habits of climbing plants – if you want to avoid future problems with neighbours.
A tree which blocks a neighbour’s drains or shades their house in winter or a rampant vine damaging a shared fence can often cause disputes between neighbours, so it is important to know what the law says.
The Property Law Act (2007) comprehensively covers these issues and there is an excellent summary of the act in https:/ /communitylaw.org.nz/lawmanual. Note that some trees with special significance may also be protected by the Resource Management Act (1991) and you will find details of how this applies in your area, on your local council website.
If problems do arise, it is always best to approach the property owner and try to sort it out amicably.
Be prepared to compromise, as in most situations it will be a matter of balancing one person’s rights against another’s.
Offering to share costs and/or labour can help. Thinning branches or raising the canopy of a tree which is blocking sunlight is a much less drastic option than cutting it down.
For more guidance in dealing with tricky situations check this article from CAB’s website: https://www.cab.org.nz/article/ KB00001150. If you need professional advice, look online for a qualified arborist, or ask your local garden centre for a recommendation.
An arborist will know the law and some offer a specialist mediation service.
Sadly, the issue sometimes reaches a stalemate. If this happens, and one party to the dispute feels seriously disadvantaged, a lawyer’s letter may help.
The Disputes Tribunal can consider cases where costs have been incurred.
For example where tree roots have damaged a concrete path or blocked a drain. But if it is a matter of a neighbour’s tree restricting your views or cutting out sunlight in winter, the district court is likely to be your only legal option. If you are considering this, check the online Community Law manual first.
Going to court is complex and time-consuming, and can cost thousands of dollars. Also, there is no guarantee of a ruling in your favour. The manual includes sample cases and links to the wording of the Property Law Act, and covers issues judges will take into account before making a ruling.
If you are interested in learning new things while helping others in our community, CAB is recruiting now. We will be training new volunteers early next year, so phone or email to find out more. We are happy to answer your questions.
Citizens Advice Bureau Nelson Tasman, 9 Paru Paru Rd, Nelson. Phone 03 5487117, 0800 367 222; email firstname.lastname@example.org