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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council has been successful in bringing a second prosecution for breaches relating to closed tracks in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.

Damon Gojack pleaded guilty to breaching Auckland Council’s Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw as was yesterday convicted of two offences, fined a total of $4500 and ordered to pay court costs of $130 Judge Tremewan in the Waitākere District Court.

Mayor Phil Goff said the prosecution and fine were appropriate.

“The vast majority of Aucklanders understand that staying off closed walking tracks is necessary to keep our kauri trees safe from dieback disease,” he says.

“I hope this fine acts as a warning to those few people who repeatedly ignore the rules and put our iconic kauri trees at risk. This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The defendant was identified entering closed areas of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park and issued with a Trespass Notice first in September 2019 then again in March and July of 2020.

He was found via CCTV to have re-offended in April and again in June 2020 walking on the Karamatura Valley Track in breach of his Trespass Notice.

Two charges for breaching the Public Safety & Nuisance Bylaw were filed with the court. 

Councillor Richard Hills, Environment & Climate Committee chair says, “Once again in it shows our system is working. Prosecution is always a last resort, but to protect our native taonga we need to use every tool at our disposal.

“We are aware how tough it is for some communities with the loss of access to our native forests, that’s why we are putting significant investment into safe track upgrades and new kauri hygiene stations that will enable access, while protecting that access for future generations. We thank those who are doing their part.”

The defendant, who represented himself, requested the Court consider a sentence of voluntary work in lieu of a fine due to his financial circumstances.

As the offence is finable only, the Judge was not in a position to consider a community-based sentence.

Judge Tremewan noted the effort the council had made to work the defendant to ensure he understood the closure and the obligations of his trespass notices, but he had failed to do so.

She repeated her position that a stiff financial penalty was appropriate and should reflect the need to set a level that would not be a mere ‘licencing fee’ but would deter both the defendant and others from breaching the bylaw.

Kerri Fergusson, Manager Compliance Response & Investigations was happy with the outcome.

“This is a good result and, being the second prosecution brought for breaching the Bylaw, sends a strong message to others that we will prosecute if they continue to ignore the rules in place to prevent the spread of Kauri dieback”.

MIL OSI