Up to $20,000 to get a tree protected

By Eloise Gibson

Adding one pohutukawa to the protected list could cost up to $20,000. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Adding one pohutukawa to the protected list could cost up to $20,000. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Aucklanders hoping to save a favourite tree from being chopped when the law changes in 2012 could face a $20,000 bill.

A planning report for Auckland City Council estimated that as the cost of adding a single pohutukawa in Epsom to its list of protected trees.

In another case, the Tree Council (Auckland) was told it would have to pay an $11,000 deposit to try for a private plan change to protect an 80 to 100-year-old pohutukawa in Rosebank Rd, Avondale.

Total costs could rise to $20,000 or more if it went ahead with the plan.

A council spokesman said that, if there was no opposition, a tree listing by a private citizen could cost as little as $5000, but $20,000 was "not out of the realms of possibility".

From January 2012, rules requiring a permit to chop down all trees over a certain height are to be dropped.

Only trees that are individually listed in district plans will be protected.

To get ready for the law change, North Shore and Waitakere city councils have taken suggestions from the public and begun the process of listing new trees in a bid to get the best ones covered by 2012.

Auckland City Council has decided not to update its tree list. Instead it will hand a list of suggested trees to the new Super City council when it takes over in November.

A key reason was that it would have cost close to $900,000 to inspect and schedule trees people had suggested adding since 2000, according to a planning report presented to the city development committee in March.

Tree Council spokeswoman Sigrid Shayer said the group would struggle to afford to get any new trees listed in Auckland city by 2012.

"This is a completely different scenario from the one that was painted last year ...

"It basically means we are dependent on the council to schedule trees, and at the moment the Auckland City Council is not interested in being proactive."

She said when that the law change was announced, she was told it would cost $2500 to $4500 for someone from outside the council to list a tree.

A year ago, the Auckland City Council told the Herald that if someone from outside the council wanted to schedule a individual tree, they would pay a deposit of $4480 followed by another fee of $1260.

The costs include council officers' time, public advertisements and holding a hearing to consider the proposal.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has said scrapping general protections would cut costs by saving councils from processing thousands of permits to trim or fell tall trees.

When councils raised questions about the time and cost involved in scheduling trees to get ready for the law change, he scrapped the requirement for pruning permits to free up staff resources.

POLITICS OF PROTECTION
* From January 2012 only trees that are individually listed in district plans will be protected.
* A report has estimated that the cost of adding a single pohutukawa to the list of protected trees could be as much as $20,000.
* The North Shore and Waitakere City Councils have taken suggestions from the public and are listing new trees in a bid to get the best ones covered by 2012.
* The Auckland City Council has decided not to update its tree list.

- NZ Herald

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