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Man charged after being caught on camera cutting down forest for dirt-bike track: 'Self-entitled and lacking in remorse'

Similarly frustrating situations have happened in nearby areas recently.

Similarly frustrating situations have happened in nearby areas recently.

Photo Credit: iStock

A New Zealand man, despite being caught on camera wielding a chainsaw, has denied that he was responsible for clearing an illegal track in a privately owned forest.

What happened? 

Stuart Biggs arrived at a locked gate in a forest on November 20, 2022, according to the New Zealand Herald. He claims he'd entered the forest to inspect a property listed for sale, but after finding the agent unavailable, he parked and continued on foot.

However, this explanation didn't make sense to Judge Jo Rielly of Nelson District Court — specifically because of the footage captured by the property owner's security cameras.

Those cameras captured Biggs instead returning to his vehicle to remove his electric chainsaw. A Nelson reporter wrote that Biggs was then seen to return nearly 40 minutes later, "take off his gumboots and empty them, [and] rub himself down with a towel."

While Biggs and his attorney claimed that he had removed a tree lying across the road, one more piece of evidence convinced Judge Rielly. 

Body camera footage from forestry agent Robert Crawford, who visited Biggs the following day, recorded Biggs swearing and threatening Crawford.

"I asked him about the damage, and he laughed and asked what the problem was," Crawford said in court. And while Crawford initially hadn't intended to report Biggs to the police, the man's demeanor — which he described as "self-entitled and lacking in remorse" — changed his mind.

Why is this behavior harmful?

Steve Chandler, executive director of Tasman Pine Forests, pointed out that Biggs had endangered both legitimate users and the entire forest with his actions. 

He referenced the 2019 Pigeon Valley fire, which was started by negligent use of farm equipment. That wildfire destroyed over 5,600 acres and caused millions of dollars in damages to their property alone, according to Chandler.

Deliberately mowing down vegetation is also incredibly harmful to plants and animals, throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack.

Because of this, Chandler warned, if Biggs "as much as puts one foot" on their land again, they will pursue further legal action.

Similarly frustrating situations have happened in nearby Australia recently. A homeowner from Queensland was fined over $95,000 for clearing over a mile of protected forest to expand his driveway, and a group of wealthy homeowners in Sydney cleared over 500 trees simply to improve their ocean view

What's being done?

Judge Rielly convicted Biggs of willfully damaging vegetation, and he was ordered to pay 1,366 New Zealand dollars ($836) in reparations to cover repairs to the area.

Additionally, visitors to any forest — legally protected or otherwise — are encouraged to follow the principles of Leave No Trace to allow the environment to thrive for generations to come.

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