Council backtracks over tree

By Michael Dickison

The oak and pohutukawa trees may be listed for protection Photo / Brett Phibbs
The oak and pohutukawa trees may be listed for protection Photo / Brett Phibbs

The fate of an almost century-old pohutukawa tree recently marked for removal is back before the Auckland City Council after a community group spent $20,000 protesting to the High Court.

The tree has caused bickering between the council's political factions, who both claim to have saved it and blame the other of politicking.

Council officers are recommending that the city development committee endorse plans to protect the tree at a meeting tomorrow, despite the council granting consent to have it chopped down in February.

The pohutukawa, on a business park development on Avondale's Rosebank Rd, is thought to be 80 to 100 years old. It stands beside an old oak tree, which was spared from council permits for removal and will also be a candidate for heritage protection at tomorrow's meeting.

Consultant planner Vijay Lala's report to the committee says the trees are worthy of protection.

"This example of a twin stand of a large native and a large exotic within public view is rather unique," the report says.

The council's earlier consent to cut down the pohutukawa, granted without public consultation, sparked protest from tree-lover group the Tree Council. The group collected 1200 signatures and took the case to the High Court, which revoked the permit in March.

But from January 2012, developers will no longer need a permit to remove trees taller than a certain height, and only trees individually listed in district plans will be protected.

In April, the Avondale community board took up the pohutukawa's cause, endorsing at a meeting a proposal to list the tree for protection under the current district plan.

Councillor and committee member Glenda Fryer, from the Labour-endorsed City Vision faction, said right-leaning Citizens and Ratepayers could have spared the Tree Council $20,000 if it had endorsed her motion to schedule worthy trees for protection months ago.

Citizens and Ratepayers had reversed its position on the issue only when it became "an embarrassment" for local Super City candidate Noelene Raffills, Ms Fryer said.

"It's a complete backward somersault and a purely political move," she said.

But Avondale's Ms Raffills rejected the claims, saying she had discussed protecting the pohutukawa tree with council officers soon after the permit was granted.

That a report was being presented tomorrow was proof the motion had been under way for some time, showing the "agitation" by some groups had been unnecessary, Ms Raffills said.

The site's developer, Jomac Construction's John McKearney, declined to comment.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 27 Nov 2014 23:55:22 Processing Time: 484ms