Tree protesters have stopped the development of a cycleway on Quay St in Auckland CBD.
Construction on the Quay Street Cycleway Extension began this week.
It will connect with the future Tamaki Drive cycleway and to the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path.
As a result, 14 pohutukawa trees, planted in 1994, will be relocated as the median will become too narrow to support them. The trees on the seaward side of Quay St are not affected. One additional tree, will also be relocated from the berm to make way for the upgraded bus stop east of Plumer St.
Protester Soala Wilson arrived at 6am when Auckland Transport contractors were about to remove one of the trees for relocation. They had already removed three.
"I put my stake in the sand and said this tree is not going anywhere," Wilson said on a video posted to Facebook.
"Saving our trees is saving the planet. Auckland Transport, your plan is madness. We can share the road and save the trees."
It is understood the contractors put the dirt back around the tree, watered it and then left the site for the day.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said stopping work was a temporary measure to make the site safe and the resumption of work was being assessed.
Urban Tree Alliance founding member Wendy Gray objected to the tree removal.
Gray said that 18 per cent of Auckland used to be covered in tree canopy. However in the last four years that number had been reduced by a third, according to research from The Tree Council.
Gray explained that the 24-year-old trees provided valuable "ecosystem services", including filtering the air polluted by heavy traffic. Relocating them would reduce their life span and mature trees could not be replaced with saplings.
"They [Auckland Transport] don't value our trees. The don't look at the cost of what we're losing.
"Leaving the mature trees is the best way to manage climate change. Otherwise, it's like having a 5-year-old child takeover a 30-year-old person's job. They're not the same."
She said if it was necessary to remove the trees it should be relocated in autumn or winter, like the arborist report stated. This would ensure the tree had the best chance of survival.
The arborist report, which the Herald sighted, recommended the trees be relocated from late-March to September as it simplifies the process and the trees would require less watering and aftercare.
Hannan said Auckland Transport were responsible for caring for the relocated trees for three years.
Bike Auckland tweeted their disapproval of the protest.
Under arborist supervision most trees will be relocated to Teal Park in Parnell, and the rest within the city centre.
The cycleway extension is expected to be completed in six months.
This section of Quay Street accommodates a bus lane, parking for buses, two traffic lanes and on-street parking. To maintain continued use for all these users, the median island in the centre of the road will be narrowed.
Auckland Transport was granted resource consent to relocate the trees in September 2017 by independent commissioners.
The decision stated that the removal of these trees will change the environment but the median strip is not planted in its entirety.
"The effects from the loss of the 15 trees is acceptable, especially in the context of the overall enhancement of the amenity of the area through provision of a dedicated cycleway."
Quay Street is a connection to Auckland's city centre, shared by pedestrians, trucks, buses, cars, and bikes. The cycleway extension will complement the different users for the street, keeping Quay Street moving and enabling people to bike in safety.