One Tree Hill chainsaw goes on sale at $5000 plus

By Claire Trevett

The protester who caused outrage when he took a chainsaw to the pine on One Tree Hill has put the machine he used in the attack up for auction.

The chainsaw Mike Smith used in a foiled attempt to take on the Monterey pine in October 1994 is for sale with a starting point of $5000.

Mr Smith said he was listing the sale of the Husqvarna chainsaw on the site on behalf of the friend he had borrowed it from to make the attack.

Mr Smith will also provide a certificate verifying it is the chainsaw he used in the initial attack.

He said he was expecting controversy: "People might see it as Maori trying to make a profit from a dastardly act. I understand the guy is trying to raise funds for some community development project but it could attract some flak."

The Trade Me auction follows other pieces of protest memorabilia going under the virtual hammer, including the $20,000 sale of former policeman Ross Meurant's aluminium baton from the 1981 Springbok tour and the somewhat less politically loaded handbag Tana Umaga used to swipe at Chris Masoe's head in a Christchurch bar.

Last night National Party leader John Key said nothing that was used to break the law should be profited from.

"I think in principle implements or assets used to perpetrate a crime should not be used for financial gain.

"He isn't just going on to Trade Me to sell a chainsaw for its normal market value. The reputation of the crime is being used to add value to it and there is something wrong with that.

"I think there should be basic principle whereby if you use something to commit a crime, you shouldn't benefit from it.

"You don't want people committing random acts of violence and then using whatever they used to do it to benefit from it."

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he did not have a reaction.

"I don't know whether it's good or bad, stupid or wise. It really doesn't interest me enough to comment on it."

Christine Fletcher, who was Auckland mayor when the tree was eventually felled by the authorities in 2000, said she was horrified.

She said the tree was iconic and Mr Smith had weakened it and shortened its lifespan.

The sale of the chainsaw is not covered by the Proceeds of Crime Act, which makes it illegal to profit from property obtained through crime and applies to serious crimes carrying sentences of at least five years.

Last year, Ben Nathan's attempt to sell the blood-stained shirt he was wearing in 1997 when he bashed the the America's Cup with a sledgehammer attracted hate mail and was withdrawn by eBay, which said it would not sell bloodied items.

The chainsaw owner asked Mr Smith to front the auction because he did not want to attract antagonism.

"I said to him, 'Well, that's nice, mate. So it all comes in my direction instead?' And his response was that it had always been in my direction so I could take it.

"I did have mixed feelings about it but he was happy to lend me the saw so I thought it's the least I can do to return the favour. But it's definitely not mine and none of the profits accrue to me. I don't get anything out of it. It's just a favour I'm doing for a mate."

Mr Smith said he was not overly sentimental about the chainsaw, which was still in good working order.

"I guess it is just a chainsaw. I'm not overly nostalgic about those kinds of things, I tend to move on, myself.

"I suppose some people might view it as a historical curio, just as other ordinary bits and pieces have some significance to events."

The chainsaw was taken as police evidence but was returned after Mr Smith offered to sign a document at his first court appearance admitting it was the chainsaw in question.

Mr Smith was convicted and sentenced to six months' periodic detention for the damage he did to the tree.

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