Defiant tree-fellers clobbered by court

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Three Arrowtown family members don’t regret illegally felling a tree despite getting 340 hours of community service between them. 

Arrowtown Lodge owner Jozephus Spijkerbosch, 62, was sentenced in Queenstown District Court last Friday to 180 hours’ community service for removing a 50-year-old eucalypt on his property last October without resource consent. 

Spijkerbosch, who’s had 30 years’ forestry experience, is adamant the tree could have fallen over in strong winds, posing a risk to kids playing in the reserve next door. 

“I feel safe in my house now,” he tells Mountain Scene. “Even the [community] swimming pool has benefited because it gets the sun now.” 

Jozephus, his son Leroy, 22, and nephew Michael, 35 – who both assisted – had all pleaded guilty to the charge, brought by Queenstown Lakes District Council under the Resource Management Act. It is believed to be QLDC’s first prosecution of this type. 

Leroy and Michael had also pleaded guilty to failing to provide their names and addresses to an enforcement officer. 

Judge Paul Kellar discharged Leroy and Michael without conviction “upon the performance of 80 hours’ community work to the satisfaction of the Arrowtown Village Assoc-iation or Department of Conservation”. 

Jozephus twice asked QLDC regulator, Lakes Environ-mental, for permission to remove the 15-20m high gum tree due to safety concerns. 

In response, LE sought the advice of an arborist who concluded the tree – sited in a protected zone – was in good health and didn’t pose a risk. 

Despite that, the Spijker-boschs felled the tree during the weekend of October 17-18. 

QLDC community services boss, Arrowtowner Paul Wilson, turned up on the Saturday afternoon, warning them to stop or else Jozephus would likely face prosecution. 

Wilson reiterated this on two more visits but the trio ignored him and LE enforcement officer Nathan Keenan repeated the warning on Sunday. 

Keenan alleged Leroy and Michael breached the RMA by failing to give him their names and addresses. 

Jozephus says a resource consent application – possibly costing several thousand dollars – would have been too expensive to pursue. 

QLDC wanted the trio fined but Judge Kellar accepted they couldn’t afford to cough up. Jozephus’ penalty of 180 hours’ community service equated to a $20,000 fine, the judge said. 

LE regulatory boss Lee Webster is happy with the level of sentencing. 

Though some people might think fines are more punitive, “I think the community is going to benefit in relation to that community service”. 

Ironically, Jozephus will likely put his time into tidying up neighbouring QLDC reserves.