A couple of days ago, the “hard done family” we reported on a few months ago (twice) once again appeared in the Dom Post in a follow up story on the denial by the WCC (in the form of a committee of Crs Best, Ahipene-Mercer and Ritchie) to allow the family to cut down the heritage listed Norfolk Pine on their Box Hill, Khandallah, property.
They have apparently spent $31,000 on a failed attempt to remove the tree. The theme appears to be that the council has been overzealous in their adherence to the RMA, costing thousands for a family to cut down a tree.
It would appear however that the decision by the Council tells a different story. A reader has sent in a copy of the Decision by the Council panel, attached here. If you’re at all interested in this subject, it’s well worth a read.
My reading of the decision indicates three things:
- The application by the applicants seemed to put up some very weak evidence together in support their application. For $31,000 you would have expected their lawyer to do more than a search on Google and Wikipedia, and collate some photos from the Alexander Turnbull Library. While I don’t think it’s fair to rule out their objections completely because they have insufficient evidence (and in the case of falling branches, I am prepared to be convinced that there may well be a safety issue – it just hasn’t been proven how serious this is beyond the submission of the applicants/family), it is hard to believe that a 80-100 year old Norfolk pine in Khandallah is going to continue to grow to nearly double its current 20 metre height (especially when it’s expected to live only another 20-30 years) and eventually damage the 107 year old house on the property.
- The Council could have keep better records as to the reasoning why the Pine was on the protected list in the first place, as it was not definitive if the Pine was planted by the property’s first owners, Robert Hannah (of Hannah’s shoes fame). Alternatively, could one argue that while not proven conclusively to be connected to the Hannah’s, the legend of the Pine’s origin that convey something of value. It is interesting to note that the Historical Places Trust did put in a submission, which was reported to be “neutral” in relation to the submission. (Just to note, the submissions on the application were nine for removal, six against, one neutral. There was one late submission which was not accepted.) The decision does allude to the Council also failing to let residents know of the processes regarding protected trees and their removal. It’s embarrassing to see residents being given incorrect or inconsistent information on the process. I hope that the council takes that observation seriously.
- While the lawyer for the applicants did point out that it is rare for a potential home buyer to contact the council for a Land Information Report – (to confirm what protections there may be on developing the property), I find it amazing that buying a property worth $1.8 million (and it would be probable that the real estate agent would have made mention of its historical significance as a selling point…who wouldn’t?) would not lead a buyer to check if there were any historical protections on the site.
So, for the hard done family living in the $1.8 million home, my advice would be to make sure your agent does a better job in the future when buying a property, and that you do a better job getting the supporting information together when applying for a resource consent.
In the meantime you could just get the tree pruned (did I not suggest that earlier)?