Man fined thousands for unsolicited pruning in neighbourly dispute
When one New Zealand man’s quest for extra sunshine in his bedroom saw him turn his neighbour’s line of trees into stumps, he didn’t expect that it would come with an eyewatering fine.
The devastated neighbour took the imprudent gardener to small claims court, where it was found the man, referred to as HL, had trespassed on his neighbours property.
The recently released Disputes Tribunal decision said HL had “practically removed” seven Ake Ake trees and several Elaegnus shrubs from his neighbours’ property, the NZ Herald reported.
HL was ordered to pay his neighbours, referred to as LG and KG, a hefty $NZD 7478 ($AUD 6800) to replace the trees and cover legal costs.
The man admitted he cut the trees but claimed he did it after he and LG agreed they needed to be topped, adding that LG had picked the height at which HL should cut.
But LG strongly denied the exchange, stating he had only acknowledged that the trees were hanging over HL’s property and needed trimming.
“LG said there was a discussion about how they were to do it, that HL had a chainsaw and that LG would help him trim the overhanging branches and pay the tip fees,” the court decision said.
Instead, the tribunal found that HL cut the trees and shrubs without the permission of LG and KG, and did so while they were away from their property for about 45 minutes.
With HL unable to prove his version of events, the tribunal accepted LG’s evidence that he only discussed trimming back the overhanging branches with HL.
“It does not make sense that LG would agree to taking height off the top of the trees, as that would result in a loss of privacy for him and his wife. THe only party who benefitted from the trees being topped was HL.”
Photographs were also submitted to the tribunal, which said that it was impossible for the trees to have simply been topped based on the images.
“Topping denotes the removal of the top part of the trees, but implies that some, or perhaps most, of the tree is left to grow. The pictures show that in some cases there are only stumps left, while other trees show some longer level of trunk with trimmed branches.
“The pictures do not show that the trees have been trimmed, but rather practically removed.”
Image: Getty Images