An 80-year-old Hastings man has been ordered to pay more than $26,000 in reparation after cutting down 65 trees, including pohutukawa, on his neighbour's lifestyle block because he believed he was "owed a view of the ocean".
Timothy John Tasker, better known as John Tasker, was convicted and sentenced in Hastings District Court on May 8 on a charge of wilful damage after cutting down his neighbour's trees to regain his sea view.
The illegal tree felling was first reported to police in November 2012 after 65 trees were found cut down on a Whangaehu Beach property, south of Porangahau.
Three of the trees were 18-year-old, 5m-high pohutukawa while another two had the sides cropped.
Tasker was ordered by the court to pay $26,662 by the end of 2015 for the replacement of the trees, after what the court described as a "long-standing dispute with his neighbour".
Court documents revealed Tasker first purchased the property in 2006 and had a "beautiful view of the sea" where he could see his grandchildren and family while they swam at the beach.
"His neighbour planted trees along the adjoining property and Mr Tasker's view to the beach became obscured," the documents say.
Last night Tasker told Hawke's Bay Today the land had been sub-divided by a farmer in the late '90s after he won $4 million, with "every section getting a view". Tasker's interest in the land began in 2000, four years after the pohutukawa were planted.
He claimed it was his right to take down the trees and foliage with a chainsaw "to reclaim his asset".
"Anything that you can put a value on becomes an asset and she stole my asset and I seized it back ... I was owed a view of the ocean."
Havelock North resident Fergus Mackie, the owner of the felled trees, said as people built up their Whangaehu Beach-side properties everyone's view became obscured.
"Under New Zealand law there is no right for someone to have a view over an adjoining property. He objected to my wife's plants and shrubs," he said.
"It doesn't sit well with me, someone coming in and cutting down pohutukawa. There was a lot of malice involved in it."
He said his wife, Louise Mackie, with whom he regularly spends weekendsat the beach, was "absolutely devastated" after discovering the damage.
He added the couple were not happy with the $26,662 settlement and said it would not cover the cost to replace the trees that were cut down.
The 80-year-old, who had worked as a builder for 40 years, said in a written letter of apology to Judge Geoff Rea that he regretted his actions.
Timothy's view before all the trees were planted.
"I apologise to my neighbours at Whangaehu Beach ... I also apologise to the police, court system and the judiciary for unnecessarily taking up their valuable time and most of all I apologise for flouting the rule of law.
"I did the wrong thing, I climbed over my neighbour's fence and cut the trees down - naturally I'm not a vandal," he said at his Flaxmere home last night.
When he watched a police officer walk down the rural road toward him with a handful of paper, he thought, "I'm in trouble".
Tasker added he was writing a book and would send it to every politician in Parliament and every law professor in the hope they had a "view problem" and would change the "wishy-washy" law.
He said he would now likely have to sell his beach property to pay the settlement to the Mackies.
Porangahau Senior Constable John Singer said there had been similar reports of trees cut, damaged and poisoned at the beach community in recent years after other residents argued similar claims.
"Some people have a mistaken belief they are owed a view ... this one was the most extreme.
"If they think they have a case, take it up with the local council before they take action or it will result in criminal damage.
"This is a timely lesson to those others engaging in this behaviour."
He said many residents had opted to use cameras to protect their properties.