Kauri protestor fined for trespassing

Johno Smith (Facebook)
Johno Smith (Facebook)

It's been a rather unhappy birthday for kauri protestor Johno Smith, who has been convicted of trespassing and ordered to pay a $1000 fine, plus $130 court costs.

Smith, who today turned 33, climbed the native tree in the Auckland suburb of Titirangi last December after its property developer owners decided to go ahead with plans to cut it down.

Smith spent nearly two weeks up the Paturoa Rd tree, but was forced to come down after it was ring-barked by a group armed with chainsaws. At the time, Smith called them a "death squad", but the tree survived.

He turned himself in to police immediately, and was charged with wilful trespass.

It was the second time a protestor had climbed the tree. A previous climber's efforts won the tree a stay of execution after several prominent Kiwis offered their support, including Maggie Barry, Rachel Hunter, Helen Clark and Sam Neill.

The owners initially agreed to keep the tree, but later decided to go ahead with plans to cut it down, sparking Smith's protest.

Smith said he tried to organise a restorative justice meeting with the owners, property developers John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, to no avail.

"They didn't want to meet with me; instead they want $20,000 in reparations," said Smith.

"I was prepared from the start to accept the full consequences of the law for my actions, but I think it's ridiculous that property developers like Lenihan can be financially compensated in situations like this.

"I acted on behalf of the community's wishes to take a stand and ensure that the ancient kauri wasn't cut down for excessive development."

Kauri protestor fined for trespassing

Smith says he is pleased with the outcome in court today.

"The judge obviously had to convict and sentence me to something," he said outside court today. "She looked favourably on my actions though and realised I was standing up for the tree on behalf of the community, and making a stand for our future generations."

He also thanked supporters that came to see him in court.

"They've been behind my back the whole way through this. They believe that trees such as the kauri need to be protected. Kauri are a national icon and vital to our community's health and wellbeing, and we must preserve them for future generations."

It's believed the tree is still standing, protected by a High Court order while a judicial review is carried out into the developers' resource consent.