Prosecuting the owner of a Maungatua plantation was not a
decision taken lightly, the Dunedin City Council says.
The action was progressed only after trying many times to
assist the landowner in applying for a resource consent so he
could keep some of his trees, staff said.
Of his own volition, Frank Hocken this week started removing
270,000 trees he planted three years ago, without resource
consent, on the top of the Maungatuas, within the Maungatua
landscape conservation area where forestry plantations are
prohibited under the Dunedin district plan.
The prosecution of Mr Hocken's company, Grant's Motels, was
the first the council had brought for a district plan breach
in six years, resource consent manager Alan Worthington said
''Our standard approach is to try and work through situations
to try and minimise the negative outcomes to an acceptable
It was an unusual step for the council to take, but the case
was such a serious breach of the district plan it was felt
prosecution was warranted.
Mr Hocken was given ample opportunity to apply for consent to
see if some of his trees could be kept.
More than a dozen approaches were made from the council,
offering advice and assistance, Mr Worthington said.
The first contact was on August 30, 2010, before the trees
were planted, when council records showed a council planner
advised Mr Hocken during a telephone call that a resource
consent was required for a forest on his land.
Mr Hocken denies that discussion took place and says he
believed the council may have confused him with someone else.
Mr Worthington said the council then tried to work with Mr
Hocken from December 2012, following a complaint made in
September, to encourage and assist him to lodge an
application for resource consent.
In the following year, the council contacted Mr Hocken at
least eight times, informing him resource consent was
required and how it could assist, including a site visit in
June, when a council planner and landscape architect viewed
the site with Mr Hocken and his consultant, and discussed
what was needed in an application.
Mr Hocken was advised of the prosecution that month and that
a consent application would influence the prosecution
process, but an application submitted a month later was
inadequate, and a promised application never appeared.
The prosecution went ahead and Mr Hocken pleaded guilty.
As recently as March 3, the council wrote to Mr Hocken
advising him there was only just enough time to complete an
Mr Worthington said it was also worth noting the majority of
Mr Hocken's site was not covered in gorse as he suggested.
Rather, it was tussock land with some native scrub and a
light smattering of gorse.
Mr Hocken said, when contacted, he decided to give up on a
consent because of the cost and the opposition it was likely
to attract, which would increase the cost.
''They wanted to publicly notify it and Lord knows where that
would end. We'd spent thousands and thousands on consultants
and lawyers and we just weren't prepared to go down that
So he decided to take out the trees, now about 1m high.