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North shore woman fined $83,000 for chopping down neighbour’s trees

Sydney Morning Herald, 3 September 2018
A woman on Sydney’s north shore must pay $83,000 after she cut down two of her neighbour’s trees for “dropping leaves in my pool”. Yueling Liu is one of two Hunters Hill homeowners who together have been ordered to pay more than $150,000 for illegal tree clearing and lopping, in a move welcomed by the local council as a deterrent to others.

Ms Liu pleaded guilty to hiring a contractor to chop down two native cheese trees without appropriate council approval. She was fined $48,000 and ordered to pay council costs of $35,000 by the Land and Environment Court.

Council workers were called to Ms Liu’s large property on Barons Crescent on February 3, 2016, and heard chainsaws operating. The officials found two tree stumps close to the border of Ms Liu’s property, but on the neighbour’s side.

When they asked Ms Liu what was happening, she gave the officials two different reasons for having the trees removed.

“I wanted to remove the tree and branches because it was dropping leaves into my pool,” she said.

She also told the council officials the trees were sparking with electricity in storms, and said: “I wanted to remove some trees.”

The court found Ms Liu had applied to the council to remove 10 trees from her property in 2014.

She had also obtained a quote from the contractor who cut down the two cheese trees to remove a “substantially larger number of trees and vegetation”.

In his ruling from July 23, Justice Tim Moore said her prior council application and her contractor quote showed her action in removing the cheese trees was “deliberate whilst knowing that consent was required”.

The same judge ruled on a separate case in May, ordering a man who had 13 trees illegally lopped on his Pains Road property to pay $75,000.