Titirangi kauri tree 'viciously' attacked

By Patrice Dougan, Lynley Bilby

Johno Smith works on a graft to repair damage to the Paturoa Road Kauri tree which was attacked early this morning in Titirangi / Photo Jason Oxenham
Johno Smith works on a graft to repair damage to the Paturoa Road Kauri tree which was attacked early this morning in Titirangi / Photo Jason Oxenham

Tree protester Johno Smith has been charged with trespass and bailed after handing himself into police this morning.

He will appear in the Waitakere District Court on January 6.

"I fully well knew what I would most likely be charged with before I went up the tree but me standing by and watching a tree like this be cut down is morally wrong for me and I would rather be able to sleep at night."

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Mr Smith said he was now back on site with the tree trying to "re-graft" it.

"We are just at the moment trying to re-graft this tree - taking live material from the crown of the tree to try and re-establish the nutrient flow where it has been cut - to make sure Awhiawhi has the best chance of surviving. It has been done before but because of the amount of damage it is touch and go," he said.

"I haven't heard of a case [involving] the kauri, however."

Mr Smith broke his 13-day treetop protest on private property in bush-clad Titirangi when eight security guards arrived at 6.15am and started to ringbark the mature tree.

He was in the canopy of the Paturoa Rd property tree when the incident happened.

The attack has left a deep gouge on the side of the kauri with a cut spanning the tree's circumference.

[The Moment The Ancient Kauri Was Chainsawed While Johno in Tree]

[The Moment It Happened]We share video footage of the precise moment that the Paturoa Kauri was attacked and regretfully a promise broken.The intention releasing this is to be transparent given the public interest. #SaveOurKauri #PrayForKauri

Posted by Save our Kauri on Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mr Smith said: "It's a pretty significant wound around the tree.

"I've been seeking professional advice from people that have dealt with scenarios like this before but they haven't had to save a kauri from wounds this great.

"But we're just taking the right steps and hoping for the best."

He was disappointed people could stoop to this level.

" I'm pretty gutted about what has happened. It hurts. It's disappointing for the community but I know this is a strong community and this is a definition of what developers are willing to go through to make money. I know this will unite the community and other communities around New Zealand to take a stronger stand and make sure trees like this are protected in some way."

An image of the van the security guards left in has been posted on social media. Photo / Facebook
An image of the van the security guards left in has been posted on social media. Photo / Facebook

He said before today's daybreak attack he had planned to be out of the tree shortly after lunch.

Instead he was doing what he could to save the stricken tree before heading to his local police station to be arrested.

"I told the police once I came down on the ground I would hand myself in so I'll be heading to Henderson police station as they requested," he said.

Looking out over the bay #saveourkauri beautiful afternoon Christmas at the tree..

A photo posted by JOHNO (@nonstopproductions) on


Mr Smith described the chainsaw gang as a death squad sent to take out Awhiawhi.

He said he didn't fear for his safety but was disappointed that people could stoop to this level.

Local resident Aprilanne Bonar said the community would gather at 6.30 tonight on site for a vigil for the tree.

She said they would also be coming to "reflect" on what had happened.

"We need each other's mana/heart to ensure our [kauri] is protected." Ms Bonar said she was unsure how many residents would come tonight because the event had been "quickly organised".

"The people who will be here will be the people who need to be here. We have also got a lot of action going on internationally. We have even had suggestions that the Melbourne Botanical Gardens would be able to help with healing the tree, so there is a lot of people rallying to help us," she said.

"Even if we don't have big numbers up at the tree - and I think we will, but even if we don't - we have got a lot of support both nationally, internationally and with our community here."

The High Court this afternoon granted an interim injunction against the felling of two native trees in Titirangi, the Save Our Kauri Community Group says.

Spokeswoman Aprilanne Bonar said that meant all activity onsite has been halted until a hearing, preventing further harm to both the ancient kauri and rimu pending the review.

The substantive case would be heard on the next available date after February 26.

Ms Bonar said the community's voice had not been heard, processes hadn't worked and the Auckland Council assessment needed to be reviewed.

"We are asking the court to review the consents allowing the ancient kauri and rimu trees to be cut down at 40 and 42 Paturoa Rd as we believe those consents should not have been granted."

Save Our Kauri protest group described it as a "vicious" attack.

"This is vengeful action by the developer who was facing being stopped by the High Court today," said spokesperson Aprilanne Bonar.

Grafting AwhiAwhi

Posted by Save our Kauri on Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On Monday Save Our Kauri applied to the High Court for a judicial review and was negotiating with the developers until late last night.

The giant kauri tree was at the centre of controversy in March when the owners of the property planned to fell it.

Owners John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith planned to chop down a 200-year-old kauri and a 300-year-old rimu at the Paturoa Rd site.

Protesters picketed the felling, and Michael Tavares spent three days up the tree to prevent it from being chopped down. It was saved after an agreement between the council, owners and protesters.

However, contractors arrived earlier this month to fell the kauri.

The property's owners could not be reached for comment.

Protesters fighting to save the kauri say the tree is 500 years old. But this is strongly disputed by the property owners, Auckland Council and the Minister of Conservation who put its age between 150 and 200 years old.

The New Zealand Arboricultural Association has condemned the actions of a group of men who ringbarked a kauri tree in Titirangi early this morning.

The group's president, Seth Thompson, said the groups actions were inappropriate and may have seriously damaged the health of the tree.

"[The practice] severs the vascular tissues that translocate nutrients and water between the roots and leaves. The rate of decline in the tree's health from such actions is dictated by several factors including species of tree, health of the tree at the time, time of year and depth of the cut," he said.

"In some cases, reversing a ringbarking event can be undertaken, although time is a critical factor to ensure best results. Another consideration for this area is taking precautions against the spread of kauri dieback disease."

He said there were also safety issues involved with ringbarking which should have been taken into consideration.

"Undertaking ringbarking while somebody is in a tree is plainly stupid and no arborist in their right mind would do this.

"Furthermore, it is imperative to consider the work safe aspect and be mindful that employing 'cowboys' to undertake unsafe practices could result in fines from WorkSafe."

- NZ Herald

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