Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Century old pohutukawa chopped

Epsom residents are powerless to stop the ancient tree, left unprotected after changes to the RMA, from being cut down. Photo / Dean Purcell
Epsom residents are powerless to stop the ancient tree, left unprotected after changes to the RMA, from being cut down. Photo / Dean Purcell

Epsom residents are powerless to stop the removal of a century-old pohutukawa tree after blanket tree protection rules were axed in the leafy suburb.

A tree removal company is taking three days to fell the 20m-high tree with numerous limbs stretching out from a large trunk in the front yard at 134 The Drive.

Acting on a complaint, Auckland Council officers put a stop to work on Tuesday, but allowed work to continue yesterday after discovering the tree was not scheduled or protected in any way.

Resource consents team manager David Oakhill said the tree was protected but a rule change last December meant the tree could be removed without resource consent.

Auckland Council backed down from its blanket tree protection rules in a legal dispute with the Property Council, meaning trees previously covered by all-encompassing rules on about 500,000 Auckland properties could be removed.

Tree Council field officer Hueline Massey predicted in January that the rule change would lead to "open slather" on trees.

Rosemary Clapham, who has lived nearby in Pukehana Ave for 18 years, said the tree was a familiar part of the local environment and home to tui and thrushes.

"It's beautiful at Christmas time when the pohutukawa flower comes out. It's very, very sad," she said.

Ms Clapham said the removal of blanket protection, prompted by changes to the Resource Management Act, was wrong and leading to the destruction of trees in Epsom.

She said a number of residents were upset and planned to contact Epsom MP and former Auckland City Mayor John Banks.

There are about 5500 scheduled trees in Auckland. Other trees are protected by various means, such as resource consent conditions.

The owner of 134 The Drive is believed to be an overseas-based landlord and could not be reached for comment.

- NZ Herald

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