A protester sitting on top of a historic Norfolk pine tree at Snells Beach has vowed to stay there overnight.
Arborist Charlie Cottrell-Jury, 29, climbed the tree near at 6am before contractors arrived at 7am to chop it down for a housing development.
He has food, water, a hammock to sleep in and a bucket for essential functions.
The Snells Beach community members had previously asked local councillors for help and they even went to the Environment Court seeking an interim protection order, which was not granted.
Cottrell-Jury, whose Facebook name is Charlie Baggins, said he had never protested to save a tree before but made a "last-minute" decision to sit in the Snells Beach tree after local residents contacted him yesterday.
"I'm a professional tree care person so I'm passionate about trees," he said.
"They can't speak so I suppose we need to speak on their behalf."
Developers Vavasour Investments have a resource consent from Auckland Council to remove the 40-metre-high tree as part of a plan for 33 new homes.
The consent said the developer wanted to remove the tree because of "the propensity of large mature Norfolk pine trees to drop substantial litter including branches, and the public safety of this tree in the long term relative to the public reserve and close residential dwellings".
The developer planned to replace the tree with "a large semi-mature transplanted pohutukawa" that would "reinforce the indigenous habitat qualities of the coastal environment".
Cottrell-Jury said he was sick of seeing the succession of beautiful trees felled for development since the watering down of the Resource Management Act over the past couple of years.
"It's a piece of local historic cultural heritage and ecological heritage that is hugely significant to this local community. It's iconic," he said.
NZ Tree Register manager Brad Cadwallader has said the tree's 6.8-metre girth was comparable with another Norfolk pine planted in 1870 at nearby Scandrett Regional Park (7.24 metres) and one planted in 1836 at the Waitangi Treaty grounds (7.53 metres).
"The size of the tree is consistent with other trees of known age in NZ of approximately 150-plus years," he said.
"With a girth of 680cm it currently ranks in the top seven of [Norfolk pines] listed in the NZ Tree Register."
Cottrell-Jury, who comes from Granity on the West Coast and moved to Auckland last year, said the decision to fell the tree wasn't rational. It wasn't inhibiting the build of any houses and the land it is on was due to be turned into a council reserve.
Police advised him that he was trespassing but said he wouldn't come down until the tree was saved. Police have now left the scene but will monitor the situation throughout the day.
Cottrell-Jury said it was a sunny day and there was "a nice sea breeze". He posted a photo of the view from the tree on Facebook and said he was happy to stay there.
"It's just like camping really, but just off the ground," he said.
"I'm an arborist, I live in trees, that's what I do. I love being up here."