A self-styled vigilante has been causing unease in a Waikanae neighbourhood, destroying hundreds of native plants carefully planted by the Weggery Reserve Conservation Group (WRCG).

The group, set up four years ago in conjunction with the Kāpiti Coast District Council has planted and maintained over 1000 native plants and trees over the last few years along the steep flood bank behind Weggery Drive, Waikanae to help bring insects and birds back into the area.

However, a spokesperson for the group said since they started work in the area someone has been damaging the planting in order to create paths through the section which happened again this month.

The bank before the Weggery Reserve Conservation Group starting planting.
The bank before the Weggery Reserve Conservation Group starting planting.

"We discovered someone has chopped down 16 more plants to create a steep path down the bank from the empty section on Weggery Drive.

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"This is not only soul destroying, it's disturbing because since we've been planting, this has happened over a dozen times before.

"Over 100 natives have been damaged, removed or poisoned."

Recent damage done to the area.
Recent damage done to the area.

The group said the offender normally comes in the early hours of the morning, prowling neighbouring property and even removing security lights from private property, which the police have confirmed.

"From 2015 until 2017 police have received a number of complaints relating to native plants being allegedly pulled out from areas in the reserve," Kapiti community constable Brett Polglase said.

"All the damage appeared to have occurred overnight.

"There have been no further damage complaints reported to police up until this month where a number of mature plants were cut down to stubs."

The most recent attack is an attempt to restore a shortcut over a high fence at the back of an empty section on Weggery Drive in order to create a path, one that is not safe or easy to navigate.

Every incident over the last four years has been reported to local authorities but the WRCG do not believe enough is being done to stop it from happening again.

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Council parks and recreation manager Alison Law said council was aware of the situation but have referred it to police.

"We are aware of this situation and emphasise with local residents and the WRCG who have invested a lot of time and energy into planting this area.

"We absolutely condemn this type of destructive behaviour and we have informed the police of this matter."

Police said in July 2016 a man was seen pulling out around 50 plants from a bank in the reserve, subsequently arrested and charged with wilful damage.

"In October 2016 police liaised with council in securing the planted area with council agreeing erect a safety fence and engage a security guard to watch the area overnight," Mr Polglase said.

"In November 2016 the same man was seen damaging the safety fence and security lights of a property.

"He was arrested and charged with being unlawfully on property and wilful damage."

The plants range from flax and cabbage trees to pittosporum, mānuka, kānuka, five finger, ngaio, kōwhai, ake ake, ferns, kohekohe and nīkau trees which have been planted by the group.

"It was a neglected area before we started working on it. We care about ecology, we care about wildlife and we've been working with council, filling the gap, where before it was neglected land," the WROC spokesperson said.

"We just want the offender prevented from coming into this area. He's been caught before but keeps coming back.

"We are tired, uneasy and uncomfortable that someone who is obsessive and relentless is lurking around at the back of our property in the early hours of the morning armed with poison, sharp knives and saws.

"No one wants to confront him but this can't carry on. We've been putting up with it for four years but it looks like it's been going on for more than 10 years.

"At a time of global concern for climate change and the threat of extinction to so many plant and insect species, we think wilful crime like this destroying native plants and trees should be taken more seriously."

Anyone with information is urged to contact Kāpiti police on 04 296 6800.