Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Neighbours quick to dob in tree choppers

Aucklanders put a stop to felling dozens of trees after a gerneral protection law was wiped New Years Day. Photo / supplied
Aucklanders put a stop to felling dozens of trees after a gerneral protection law was wiped New Years Day. Photo / supplied

Auckland residents with ears cocked for the sounds of chainsaws have put a stop to the chopping of dozens of Auckland's trees since a general protection law was wiped on New Year's Day.

Auckland Council compliance officers responded to 20 callouts about tree removal over the holiday period.

Most complaints from vigilant neighbours were not about assaults on significant trees protected under district plan rules.

But the cases revealed a complex and varied situation across the region resulting from the Government's law change, which largely revoked district plan rules for blanket protection of urban trees from January 1.

The aim was that, for the first time, a tree could be removed without a resource consent.

In response to the confusion, the council is pleading for householders to "check before you chop".

It has a trained team to handle calls about which rules remain and which trees are still protected under proposed changes to district plans.

The council said that felling or damaging a protected tree may result in a prosecution and fine.

A Ponsonby property owner who chopped down a 6m tarata (lemonwood) tree received a formal warning because the Residential 1 Zone still protects trees of that size.

The owner made amends by replanting with palm trees and landscaping.

In one breach since January 1, two trees were cut down in a central Auckland Residential 1 Zone where rules remain.

The contractor claimed they were below the protected size but the council disagrees.

An investigation is in progress in Titirangi after a property owner cut a mature kanuka tree while creating a driveway.

Four complaints are being investigated on the North Shore, where district plan rules are largely unchanged.

In one case, a Narrow Neck resident complained that a protected pohutukawa was removed.

The property owner had applied to remove the tree in 2008 and was refused.

The council said the property owner's excuse was that he was under the impression that tree rules were revoked.

But the council told him a resource consent was still needed because rules protecting the pohutukawa were still in effect.

In Royal Oak, a property owner was given a formal warning after removing structural limbs from a tree, an action which requires a resource consent.

Council spokesman John Evans said the resource consent team took 430 calls from the public about trees during the holidays.

Central Auckland residents made 150 calls, Manukau 120, Franklin 70 and Papakura, Rodney and Waitakere residents had 30 calls.

A further 400 calls from across the region, including many from North Shore residents, were taken by the resource consents team.

- NZ Herald

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