Quick, whack your old trees down. Otherwise you run the risk of having MP David Cunliffe living up it and being bossed about from New York by former Prime Minister Helen Clark. Supermodel Rachel Hunter will weigh in with obscenities on Facebook: that's because you fail to appreciate the "life force" your tree holds.

That's what has happened to architect John Lenihan and his family. They were going about the lawful enjoyment of their Titirangi property, including chopping down their old kauri. It was theirs. They bought it. But no matter. They had to be stopped.

They had protesters outside their property, a fellow living up the tree, a nationwide media furore and everyone from the UN down telling them they were greedy and evil. They received death threats.

No one said what the Lenihans were doing was illegal but plenty of people were screaming abuse and happy to break the law.

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The dispute could have been resolved peacefully by the protesters digging deep and buying the property. Rachel Hunter could afford it. So, too, could Helen Clark. And David Cunliffe.

But that's not how these characters play. They are puffed-up bandwagon-jumpers, holier-than-thou busybodies, always ready to bully and abuse at no expense or inconvenience to themselves.

To hell with minority rights - in this case, the Lenihan's. We can jump up and down, and scream and shout and be clapped and reported about. It's glorious. Look at us, we care. To hell with the law.

Even Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry waded in. Admittedly, not dramatically. She didn't chain herself to the tree or give it a hug. But she did ask for a report. And declared herself "surprised" she wasn't notified. Who knew she had to be? Where's that rule?

The great National Party once stood firm for property rights. No longer. That's a shame.

Respect for private property is what makes a free and tolerant society. The baying of the crowd shouldn't dictate what you can and can't do.

Yet that's exactly how today's moralisers and environmentalists operate. They care nothing for tolerance and respect. They are modern-day witch-hunters and inquisitors.

The Lenihans were bullied and harassed, their lives and their property trampled. They quickly surrendered. They didn't want their dream home built in an atmosphere of such rancour and abuse.

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The protester up their tree with a bucket for a toilet gave the thumbs-up for the camera. The mob had won. Its abuse and law-breaking worked.

The protesters wonder why landowners are wary of trees; they should take a moment to reflect on their abusive selfishness.

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