Urban deforestation | The Jackal

4 Apr 2013

Urban deforestation

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Epsom residents are powerless to stop the removal of a century-old pohutukawa tree after blanket tree protection rules were axed in the leafy suburb.

A tree removal company is taking three days to fell the 20m-high tree with numerous limbs stretching out from a large trunk in the front yard at 134 The Drive.

Acting on a complaint, Auckland Council officers put a stop to work on Tuesday, but allowed work to continue yesterday after discovering the tree was not scheduled or protected in any way.

The Pohutukawa tree is considered New Zealands Christmas tree, and is a taonga (national treasure). Being 20 metres tall, this particular tree would have been over 100 years old, and should therefore have been protected.

The other issue here is that trees in general are beneficial to the environment. In fact we need more trees in urban areas to maintain a natural ecosystem and encourage the return of birdlife.

If Gareth Morgan thinks cats are such a disaster, cutting down native trees should be considered a catastrophe! Lets hope he pipes up about the habitat of native birdlife being destroyed by ignorant private landowners.

Resource consents team manager David Oakhill said the tree was protected but a rule change last December meant the tree could be removed without resource consent.

Auckland Council backed down from its blanket tree protection rules in a legal dispute with the Property Council, meaning trees previously covered by all-encompassing rules on about 500,000 Auckland properties could be removed.

Tree Council field officer Hueline Massey predicted in January that the rule change would lead to "open slather" on trees.

I bet there are no stats being kept as to exactly how many trees that previously had protection are being chopped down.

Rosemary Clapham, who has lived nearby in Pukehana Ave for 18 years, said the tree was a familiar part of the local environment and home to tui and thrushes.

"It's beautiful at Christmas time when the pohutukawa flower comes out. It's very, very sad," she said.

So, as well as an impact on local birdlife, there's also a detrimental impact on the community by allowing private land owners to chop down ancient native trees whenever they feel like it.

Ms Clapham said the removal of blanket protection, prompted by changes to the Resource Management Act, was wrong and leading to the destruction of trees in Epsom.

She said a number of residents were upset and planned to contact Epsom MP and former Auckland City Mayor John Banks.

Good luck with that... Perhaps somebody should inform her that the Act party promoted the previous amendments to the RMA that made it hugely difficult to protect urban trees.

In fact John Banks has been advocating for further changes to the RMA that make it even easier to destroy the natural environment most New Zealanders know and enjoy. The governments proposed changes have received widespread condemnation, even from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Lets hope that opinion results in enough political pressure to ensure further detrimental changes are not implemented.

The owner of 134 The Drive is believed to be an overseas-based landlord and could not be reached for comment.

Obviously the overseas owner doesn't share our values.