Council threatened with legal action for breach of Act

Alexandra Half Mile Reserve Community Group spokesman Chris Winter addresses the Central Otago...
Alexandra Half Mile Reserve Community Group spokesman Chris Winter addresses the Central Otago District Council during the public forum at yesterday’s meeting. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
The fight for the pine trees at the Half Mile Reserve is stepping into the legal arena.

The Central Otago District Council’s plans to fell the trees on the reserve at Alexandra’s southern entrance have proven contentious, with residents up in arms to save their beloved trees.

The reserve officially closed today in preparation for the tree felling, which is scheduled to start next Tuesday.

The council is seeking feedback on restoration and landscape plans for planting that would take place in about a year’s time.

On Tuesday councillors were sent a copy of a letter addressed to the council acting chief executive from special counsel Kristy Rusher, on behalf of the Alexandra Half Mile Reserve Community Group, advising the council it was in breach of its statutory obligations under the Reserves Act 1977.

In a copy of the letter obtained by the Otago Daily Times, the group said the Central Otago council had failed to have a reserves management plan in place for the reserve as required under the Act.

It also said that under section 42(3) of the Act, the council "may not commence the removal of the trees without first providing for the replacement, planting or restoration of the trees to be removed".

"The council is therefore in breach of several of its statutory obligations under the Act, should the removal of trees commence before the council has made necessary provision for the protection of the gecko population, a complaint to the Ombudsman will follow regarding the breach of this statutory duty," the letter said.

It went on to say a judicial review application based on "council’s breach of the statutory duties" could seek the decision to authorise the removal of the trees be vacated and see the council served with an injunction to prevent the trees being felled.

The group asked the council to suspend plans to remove the trees by 5pm yesterday or risk legal action.

During the public forum at yesterday’s council meeting, group spokesman Chris Winter drew councillors’ attention to the letter and said the group felt it had no other options.

A council spokeswoman confirmed the council had received the letter by late Tuesday and had "not yet had the time to review its contents".

Speaking to the ODT last night, Mr Winter said he was contacted by the council just before the 5pm deadline and advised the council had not been able to form a response in that timeframe.

shannon.thomson@odt.co.nz

 

 

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