Auckland's tree contractors say fewer landowners than expected are able to take advantage of a law change that promised to let them remove trees without a council consent.
They blame confusion over tree-chopping rights caused by Auckland Council's last-minute bid to stop open-slather removal on private urban land when blanket protection stopped on New Year's Day.
A Herald survey of contractors shows the new law has brought extra inquiries but not, so far, a cash windfall from heavy bookings.
Arboricultural Association executive member Seth Thompson said his Tree Fellas company had double the calls about tree removals compared with the same time last year.
John Baker of Baker Tree Services reported a 50 per cent rise in inquiries from residents of mostly North Shore and Auckland central.
Matthew Paul of Urban Treecare said he had been busier in South Auckland because protection had diminished in Papakura and former Manukau City districts.
However, Garry Claxton of Claxton Tree Services said removal inquiries were insignificant in the first weeks of the year.
"I would not be going into business on the assumption I was going to get rich in a few months by taking trees out," he said.
Ivor Shannon of Treescape said summer was always a busy time in the trade.
"But before the law changes were clarified late last year, we had a lot of customers book in for tree work that would otherwise have needed consent.
"We now know there has not been much of a change and a lot of customers were upset they could not do what they thought they could."
Cutting the red tape and consent costs for urban land owners wanting to fell trees was promised in the Resource Management (Streamlining and Simplifying) Amendment Act. However, Mr Shannon and Mr Thompson said the council had come back with a form of protection which was so complex that land owners and contractors had to check with officials before they chopped.
There were traps for the unwary: In six situations in the region, some form of tree protection still applied and consent was still needed for a considerable number of trees.
A consent might take up to 20 working days to process.
"The change has not simplified it - it has made it more complicated," said Mr Thompson.
"A lot of people are unsure because of anomalies between the six old councils' district plans that contradict what's protected and what's not.
"We have to go through the council's call line and they search each property's file for answers."
Norfolk pine trees that are protected on the North Shore could be taken out in other parts of urban Auckland.
On top of protection tags on properties in particular residential zones, the council is proposing to add 1819 new trees to the 3960 already scheduled for protection in the Super City's six district plans.
Linus Wood of Tree Contracts said some jobs were made easier because a permit was required for example, a removal to allow household extensions.
"To me, the law change has not made things simpler but over a year it might as they sort it out."
* For those trees specifically identified or proposed for scheduling in a district plan.
* Auckland isthmus residential zones 1 to 4.
* Manukau residential zone 4.
* North Shore residential zones 1 to 6.
* Papakura residential zone 4.
* Rodney - all residential except for "residential high intensity zone".
* Waitakere Ranges and bush living zones within urban limits.
* For those protected by consent notice, condition or covenant.
* Urban sites over 4000sq m or without building or council water and sewage services.