Illegal pruning costs Dapto man $3300

A Dapto man will have to fork out more than $3000 in fines and professional costs for lopping branches off a tree without permission.

Wollongong City Council took Vincent Clephas to court on Thursday claiming he had not sought council approval to remove branches from a 10-metre high casuarina tree on his neighbour’s property.

Clephas did not appear in court in person, instead sending in a written plea of guilty to the charge of carrying out development without consent.

File picture.

File picture.

In the letter, Clephas said he had removed the branches because he feared they would fall on his house during high winds.

He said his family had experienced such an episode when living in their previous house, and the damage had taken eight months to repair and left them all fearful of having the same thing happen again.

‘‘I felt that this tree had the potential to cause similar experiences to our last residence and I felt the need to prevent similar incidences from occurring again by lopping overhanging branches,’’ Clephas wrote, adding he had the consent of his neighbour.

He also claimed the tree was damaging footpaths around his home and he worried it would affect the house’s foundations.

‘‘The distance from the tree to the house is 1.5 metres,’’ he said.

‘‘I had no intention of harming the tree, and in fact, the tree is growing back where I cut it.’’

A lawyer for the council said it was important a message of general deterrence be sent to the community, arguing against the imposition of a ‘‘nominal fine’’ for the charge.

Magistrate Michael Stoddart noted the incident was not ‘‘the most serious’’ of such offences, but said Clephas had left it in ‘‘a very sorry looking state’’.

He fined Clephas $2000 and ordered him to pay $1300 in professional costs.