'I am the guilty bastard', says Tuatapere tree poisoner
Tuatapere man Andy Pender, a former British army sergeant, says he poisoned dozens of pine trees which prevent morning sun from hitting his house. Pender is standing on the boundary of his property, with some of the dying pine trees behind. Photo: Kavinda Herath / Stuff
A former British army sergeant has outed himself as the man who poisoned dozens of pine trees on council land in a small Southland town.
"I am the guilty bastard," said Tuatapere man Andy Pender, when approached for comment on Friday.
Police had announced the previous day that a 54-year-old Tuatapere resident had been charged with criminal damage relating to the deliberate poisoning of more than 200 trees in a public reserve.
Pender said he was the man charged, and he would plead guilty when appearing in the Invercargill District Court on February 28.
In December, when Stuff talked to Tuatapere residents about the tree poisonings, Pender said he would buy a slab of beer for the culprit because the 20-year-old trees prevented his house from getting morning sunlight until 11.30am.
His house is one of three located near the pine trees, dozens of which are dying, though many were not poisoned. The boundary of his quarter acre section is about 20 metres from the east edge of the trees.
Though denying he was the tree poisoner in December, on Friday Pender was open and frank about having committed his "first offence", and why he did it.
He said the Southland District Council had not responded to his complaint about the trees blocking sunlight to his home.
A former British army sergeant who served in the Gulf and Afghanistan wars before moving to New Zealand in 2014 and falling in love with Tuatapere, Pender said he visited the district council office in Invercargill in mid-2020 to explain the tree problem.
He wanted to discuss the fact the trees were restricting sunlight to his and his neighbours' houses, which made for cold houses in winter, and the trees would only get higher.
He said he received a follow-up phone call from a staff member the next day who confirmed the trees were on council land and the issue would be sorted.
"Never heard from them since," he said on Friday.
He decided to go on his "crusade" for himself and his neighbours and to bring about change at the council.
He said he wanted the council to listen to ratepayers concerns, saying someone should have arranged a meeting with him.
The council could dictate how close sheds and the like could be built to boundaries, he said.
"Those trees were planted and forgotten, and the council knew they would grow to more than 20 metres, and they gave no thought about the residents.
"I didn't want this [poisoning] to happen, but there was nowhere else to go."
His house has a solar panel, but it was missing out on valuable morning sunshine hours to help warm his home in winter months.
That will soon change, with the council to chop down the entire tree plantation in coming weeks.
"Good, me and my neighbours' houses will be warmer and drier during the winters," Pender said.
And did Pender end up buying himself a slab of beer?
"A box of wine."
A spokesperson for the Southland District Council said it was declining to comment on the matter which was before the courts.
Tuatapere Te Waewae Community Board chairwoman Anne Horrell also declined to comment while it was before the courts.
Original source can be found here: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/484057/i-am-the-guilty-bastard-says-tuatapere-tree-poisoner