In the first prosecution of its kind, an Auckland man has been found guilty of walking on tracks in the Waitākere Ranges that were closed to protect kauri trees from dieback.
Robert Armitstead was found guilty on two charges in relation to three breaches of Auckland Council’s Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw, Judge Lisa Tremewan said today.
It’s the first prosecution since the tracks were closed in May 2018 to prevent kauri dieback disease from spreading to the trees, some of which were hundreds of years old.
Judge Tremewan rejected claims by Armitstead’s lawyer that Armitstead had walked on a track that was not part of a park.
Armitstead also claimed he thought the park signage prohibiting entry was a mistake.
Armitstead previously entered a guilty plea in September 2020 to another charge of entering a closed track in breach of the same bylaw.
He withdrew an earlier not guilty plea and admitted he’d breached the rules in May 2019.
Armitstead denied other offending that was said to have happened on August 26 and September 11, 2019.
Judge Tremewan said Armitstead could have easily clarified whether or not the signage was correct, and added, “he seemed resolute about his view of the matter and what he considered himself entitled to do”.
Councillor Richard Hills, chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee, welcomed the court’s verdict in finding the defendant guilty.
“This is the last thing we want to do, take legal action. We would prefer hikers and walkers respect the rules and stay on the open tracks.
“But if they fail to, we will use every tool possible to protect our native taonga, we only get one chance,” he said.
He said most Aucklanders had done the right thing.
“However, we have had to issue 139 trespass notices and 168 warnings because some people don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions and the effects these have on the environment and the rest of the community,” Hills said.
“We’ve reopened 72 kilometres of tracks in our regional and local parks after making them safe from kauri dieback disease, with 34 regional park and 22 local parks track upgrades completed and more openings expected in the Waitākere Ranges before Easter. So there’s absolutely no excuse for going into closed areas.”
Armitstead was remanded to reappear in the Waitakere District Court for sentencing on May 21.