A towering Norfolk pine at Snells Beach poses no threat to public safety or houses and it must remain, a lobby group says.

Tree Council chairman Sean Freeman questioned reasons for granting consent to fell the 150-year-old, 40m high tree at the beach community north of Auckland.

Read also: Protest vehicles try to save historic Norfolk pine

On July 25, the Auckland Council granted resource consent to remove the tree because it could drop a lot of litter and branches, which could be dangerous in a public reserve and to nearby homes.

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"Nearly all large trees have a propensity to drop substantial litter including branches," Freeman said. "That is not a reason to cut down a healthy, much-loved heritage Norfolk pine."

Snells Beach residents parked their vehicles under the tree to try to save what is believed to be one of New Zealand's seven oldest Norfolk pines. The Herald reported this week that housing developer Vavasour Investments sent contractors to cut down the tree at the north end of the beachfront, but backed off when they were met by protesters.

The resource consent report said the tree's removal was added after the original application for consent to build 33 homes in the block behind the tree.

The developer planned to replace the tree with "a large semi-mature transplanted pohutukawa" that would "reinforce the indigenous habitat qualities of the coastal environment", the report said.

But Freeman said the Norfolk was important to the community.

"There is a disconnect between the value placed on it by council's assessing officer and the feeling in the local and wider community. Many people clearly do not share the consent officer's view that the effects of its removal will be 'less than minor'," he said.

James Gilderdale on his Norfolk pine stump. Photo/ Dean Purcell
James Gilderdale on his Norfolk pine stump. Photo/ Dean Purcell

Last year, the Herald reported how large parts of a protected 39m Norfolk pine in Mt Albert were felled at a Woodward Rd address.

Resident James Gilderdale, whose tree was scheduled in the District Plan, went to the Environment Court seeking a declaration that if the Auckland Council prosecuted him in the District Court, he would have a defence recognised in the Resource Management Act.

Judge Laurie Newhook said he could not make that declaration but that if Gilderdale felled the pine, he would have a strong defence because the tree posed an "undeniable presence of risk to human life".

Vavasour's agent, Mat Peters, has said the removal of the Snells Beach Norfolk pine was "carefully considered by architects, iwi, an ecologist, and an historian contracted to research the history of the tree".

The developer was committed to "working constructively with authorities to resolve this dispute so that we can get on with the lawful removal of the Norfolk pine".