1800 Auckland trees join protection shortlist

By Wayne Thompson

There has to be genuine reasons for protecting a tree and a lot of nominations did not get through. Photo / Thinkstock
There has to be genuine reasons for protecting a tree and a lot of nominations did not get through. Photo / Thinkstock

Auckland Council has whittled down a list of 4300 requests for protected trees to 1800 in response to the Government's removal of "blanket protection" rules next January.

The council said yesterday it would change seven district plans in order to add the 1800 to the 3690 notable trees in existing schedules.

Regional development and operations committee chairwoman Ann Hartley said the council had put in a huge effort to bring in more protected trees on private urban property.

"We are staying within legal guidelines and not pushing the envelope too hard."

Mrs Hartley said there had to be genuine reasons for protecting a tree and a lot of nominations did not get through.

However, the council was worried that people might think everything could be chopped down on January 1.

Trees in their garden might still be protected and need a resource consent to fell or remove.

A "check before you chop" campaign would invite people to contact the council call centre to find out where tree protection rules applied and maps would be provided online.

The 1800 nominations - from local boards and citizens - are on private urban property and have been assessed and approved by council arborists. Land owners and the public get a say on the proposed schedule once the district plan changes have been notified.

Objections will be taken in a council planning report to council-hired independent commissioners.

The council can apply to the Environment Court to have the revised schedule available in time for the tree protection streamlining law which was changed in September 2009 with notice that changes would kick in on January 1, 2012.

Scrapping general protections was supposed to cut costs for property owners and council for permits to trim, prune or fell trees on private land in the urban area.

However, the council estimated yesterday that the bill for its response was $1 million up to the point of notification, including legal, arborist, planning, mapping and administration costs.

Letters were being sent to the owners of trees nominated for the schedule.

Tree Council spokeswoman Hueline Massey said it was disappointing that only 1800 trees had made the shortlist for addition.

"That's the action of last resort because that's only the best of the best trees which have been put forward.

"But what happens to the next level down which is a good proportion of the trees which the Tree Council is concerned about?"

Waitakere Ranges Protection Society chairman John Edgar said trees in urban Titirangi-Laingholm kept their protective status.

But he worried about the future for other beautiful trees inside the urban limits, including pohutukawa, totara and oak.

"There must be three million trees in Auckland, so 1800 is neither here nor there."

- NZ Herald

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