12 Jun 2015

Kauri campaigner convicted of trespass

5:20 pm on 12 June 2015

The man convicted of trespass for scaling an Auckland kauri to save it from developers says he wants more legal rights for nature.

Michael Tavares outside court with partner, Eleanor Parkes. She was also at the protest, though not up the tree.

Michael Tavares outside court with his partner, Eleanor Parkes. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Michael Tavares admitted trespassing on the land in Auckland's Titirangi but avoided a fine or community service when a magistrate sentenced him in the Waitakarere District Court today.

Community magistrate Dianne Hale warned him that if he trespasses again in the next year he could be brought back to court for an alternative sentence.

Mr Tavares, who remained up the kauri for three days in March, said he stood by his actions.

"It was only through my action outside the law that this tree was able to have a voice," he said.

"Because the tree, and the rights of nature, has no standing in a court room in New Zealand, my lawyer was not able to speak for the rights of nature or the rights of that tree so I had no option but to plead guilty in this case."

The kauri, which Mr Tavares said was 500 years old, but which the Auckland Council said was more like a century old, was at risk of being axed so developers could build two houses on the land on Paturoa Road.

Mr Tavares climbed down and handed himself in to police once the developers assured him the tree would not be felled.

During the sentencing, Ms Hale said the victim impact statement showed the land owners, who wanted to cut down the kauri, were threatened and abused.

"The owner and his family were put under considerable stress. They felt very bullied and let down. They were exposed as greedy developers and were subject to serious threats and extreme verbal abuse," she said.

Mr Tavares said he had nothing to do with the threats and his actions were peaceful, Ms Hale said.

Kauri tree that Michael Tavares lived in for a few days in March.

The kauri tree that Michael Tavares lived in for three days. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

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