Kauri tree occupier appears in court

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

Kauri tree occupier Johno Smith has been remanded on bail without plea to charges of wilful trespass at the Waitakere District Court today.

Environmentalists and property developers have been arguing over the Titirangi Kauri Tree since last year.

Smith says he occupied the Kauri for thirteen days after property developers John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith sent contractors to fell the tree. That was despite coming to an earlier agreement it would not be removed for housing.

On the 23rd of December, while perched in the tree, Smith filmed a group of people taking to the base of the Kauri with a chainsaw. This was later described as ring barking.

He says “A group of five security guards dressed in black and men with chainsaws inflicted serious wounds to Kauri and another three large trees on the proposed housing development site.”

A few hours after the incident the High Court issued an order protecting the Kauri and other trees on the property until the completion of a resource consent judicial review.

“A local community member had filed papers in the High Court days earlier and an agreement between both parties’ lawyers had been confirmed the night before,” says Smith.

Last year, Michael Tavares pleaded guilty to trespassing after occupying the same Kauri for over 80 hours in May.

After claiming the property developers had not kept their promise, Smith took over in December and lived in the tree until just before Christmas.

Smith says “I’d do what I did again in a heartbeat if it would stop another ancient native from being felled.”

Smith is set to reappear in court on the 20th of January.