Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Tree-saving rules under attack

Totara at 18 Smiths Ave, Papakura, have been scheduled. Photo / Brad Roberts
Totara at 18 Smiths Ave, Papakura, have been scheduled. Photo / Brad Roberts

Commissioners responsible for drawing up Papakura's list of notable trees have criticised the method used to assess how 5000 Auckland trees are protected.

The council has relied on district plan scheduling to protect trees since a change to the Resource Management Act revoked blanket protection in January.

In a decision on the council's bid to add 58 trees or groups of trees to the protected list, commissioners Greg Hill, William Kapea and Kerry Connolly say the "standard tree evaluation method" (Stem) does not take into account a tree's effects on owners and neighbours.

The method, which compares the merits of trees on a point system, was used to compile a list of 1800 from the 5000 nominated for protection in the region's district plans.

Papakura is the first area to get a decision from the regional round of hearings this year, at which hundreds of Aucklanders gave their views.

In the decision, the panel said the only trees removed from the schedule as a result of their visits to submitters' properties was a group of totara shading a house in Sunnypark Ave.

Council experts said the trees scored 138 points, above the Stem threshold of 126 points for inclusion.

But the owners wanted the option of being able to remove them without going through the long and costly process of getting resource consent.

The panel said: "The trees dominate and overhang much of the house and as a result it receives very little sunlight and is cold and damp.

"Also the trees are dropping considerable amounts of leaf and should any limb fall off it will crash onto the house's roof."

The adverse effects of the trees on the owners and neighbours outweighed the positive community effects.

The commissioners said the Stem method failed to address wellbeing and health and safety of people - one of the purposes of the act.

Greater weight was placed on the value of the tree itself and its contribution to the wider community.

However, the commissioners rejected a bid by Housing New Zealand to stop the scheduling of three totara on the front boundary of a Smiths Ave property.

The corporation complained that scheduling restricted its ability to maintain, alter or redevelop.

The panel said the trees' Stem rating was 136 because of their visual appeal and because they contributed to the amenity of the area without damaging houses.

The council said the Stem method was endorsed by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.

As well as an arborist making an inspection, the council reporting planner visited the Sunnypark trees and considered that the installation of roof gutter guards could prevent problems.

The trees did not appear to be a hazard.

- NZ Herald

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