Clearing of native bush at motor camp brings questions

Pounawea Motor Camp lessee Glenn Maxwell yesterday inspects the area of the camp where native...
Pounawea Motor Camp lessee Glenn Maxwell yesterday inspects the area of the camp where native bush was cleared from between trees. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Clutha District Council decision not to prosecute a Pounawea man who felled an area of native bush has angered Dunedin law student Logan Miller-Robson.

A section of the Pounawea scenic reserve was cleared last summer by Pounawea Motor Camp lessee Glenn Maxwell.

Mr Miller-Robson's grandmother held the camp lease before Mr Maxwell took over, and she still lives next door to the camp.

Mr Miller-Robson, who was born in Balclutha and raised in Owaka, says he was asked to look into any legal avenues by some committee members of the Pounawea Projects Group.

"I started looking into the issue two months ago.

It doesn't quite add up to me what they [the council] are trying to push through."

Mr Miller-Robson said about 2ha of native bush was cleared by Mr Maxwell last summer to make way for more tents.

Instead of prosecuting Mr Maxwell, the Clutha District Council instructed him to donate $1000 worth of native trees to the community.

Under the Reserves Act, Mr Maxwell could have been fined up to $200,000 if taken to court, he said.

Mr Maxwell said he took out the "undergrowth" and any unsafe trees.

He was not aware he needed resource consent to fell trees inside the camp boundaries.

Mr Maxwell denies Mr Miller-Robson's claims trees were milled, because he "was not legally allowed to log".

District council asset manager Jules Witt said the trees were felled through a misunderstanding.

Provisions under the Reserves Act were limited and, on balance, the council was uncertain whether Mr Maxwell would be convicted, he said.

Mr Witt estimated costs for waging a legal battle with Mr Maxwell could have run into tens of thousands of dollars, while the fine might have been only $500.

The council may have been able to mount a civil case against Mr Maxwell, but this would also have been at considerable cost, Mr Witt said.

Asking Mr Maxwell to plant $1000 worth of trees seemed a sensible way forward.

Mr Miller-Robson said the council had made decisions behind closed doors and without consulting the community.

Department of Conservation representative Cheryl Pullar said Mr Maxwell had been a bit confused about the boundaries of his lease.

The felled trees had been in the campground but not in the lease area.

Doc had made the council aware that trees had been felled and asked what measures it was going to take.

Because the trees were vested in the council, it was ultimately a council decision what to do.

Mr Maxwell will consult the Pounawea Projects Group over the $1000 worth of native trees he has to donate to the Pounawea community.

John Burgess, of the Projects Group, said he had "no axe to grind" with Mr Maxwell, and the group did not want to get involved in an issue between Mr Maxwell and the council.

The Pounawea Projects Group will meet on Saturday to discuss where the new trees should be planted.

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