A land developer has been fined $15,000 for felling vegetation on his Gisborne property and leaving it where it could pollute a stream.
Director of Napier-based Eagle Eye Developments Luke Hansen was found guilty of one breach of section 15 of the Resource Management Act after a trial in Gisborne District Court in February.
The court heard that between January 17, 2015 and December 17, 2016, work carried out by Hansen resulted in the potential for felled vegetation to get into the Kopakiraho Stream, which runs through his Gaddums Hill property and feeds into the Waimata River.
In his sentencing notes, now released by the court, Judge Craig Thompson said Hansen's offence was "not as bad as some", but still required "a penalty of some significance".
Judge Thompson pointed out the maximum penalty for a conviction was two years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $30,000. "I need to say that having listened to the evidence and reconsidered the notes of evidence and the material since, this offence was one of considerable carelessness and, as I think I have noted already, one could say recklessness, by someone who was well able to know better."
Judge Thompson said it was to Hansen's credit that he did remedial action when approached about the issue.
In arriving at the $15,000 fine, 90 per cent of which would be paid to the council, Judge Thompson took a starting point of $20,000, with a deduction of 5 per cent for remedial work.
"I also recognise that the prosecution did not succeed on five of the six charges. I did take some account of that."
He rejected an application for a discharge without conviction.
Although he accepted Hansen's reputation had already been tarnished by reporting of the case, he would have to "take on the chin". It was also something a potential employer in that field ought to know about.
"He is, in future, going to have to simply live with it."
The council's acting environmental and regulatory services group manager Lois Easton said the council prosecuted because streamside vegetation, particularly in gullies, was critical for the ecological health of streams as well as to maintain land stability.
"The council has an obligation under the RMA to enforce our district plan rules and RMA legislation, and we will investigate any offending and place offenders before the courts.
"We'd like to acknowledge the efforts of our staff who put in a tremendous amount of work to prepare and provide the documentation, specialist evidence and testimony that ultimately led to a successful conviction.
"We remind all landowners that resource consents are required for vegetation clearance in many areas, as it can have a significant impact on land stability and water quality.
"The council does monitor and enforce consents."
- Gisborne Herald