Green-minded Avondale locals are angry the council has chopped down precious rewarewa in a special reserve. By Valerie Schuler
It's a tiny walkway overlooking the Whau River. Nestled at the bottom of Saunders Reserve, many people don't even know it exists. Surely no one would miss a tree or two? Uh-uh. Auckland City Council's felling of large native trees at Avondale's Kurt Brehmer Walkway has made green-minded locals angry. Kim Kwok and Gilbert Brakey are members of Friends of the Whau, a community group formed to preserve the area's waterways and fauna. Out on a regular walk a couple of months ago, they were shocked to find an empty space where fully mature rewarewa trees once stood. "Disturbing is what it was. Disturbing and extremely discouraging,' says Mr Kwok. "It's a real pity this has happened.' Mr Brakey says the walkway is the only remaining patch of native bush on the Auckland City side of the river. "We've spent eight years reintroducing natives and it's a real kick in the teeth. The trees were 9m tall and in perfect health; there was no reason to cut them down. What I want to know is how they got resource consent and why the community was not consulted." The council says the trees were removed because of emergency stormwater works. Their removal was necessary so stormwater pipes wouldn't be damaged by slippages, says Greg Moyle, the councillor who chairs the arts, culture and recreation committee. An arborist's report says: "The rewarewa tree has severe decay at the base and is in a poor state of health. For this reason, the removal of the tree has been recommended.' Two other trees were removed as excavation would severely compromise their root systems, says Mr Moyle. There was no consultation because of the emergency nature of the work. Catherine Farmer, who is the Tree Spokesperson for Avondale and a member of the community board, says she should have been consulted. West Auckland environmentalist Kurt Brehmer, 93, after whom the walkway was named, agrees that it's not good enough. "The community should have been consulted. Native trees should not be cut down and this should be investigated.' Furthermore, there is a discrepancy about the number of trees removed. The council says three rewarewa were cut down. However, Mr Brakey, who visits the area regularly, says there were five rewarewa and only one remains. The council has replaced the trees with new ones on the bank but Mr Brakey says they will take up to 30 years to mature. "They never should have cut them in the first place."
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WHAU FACTS The Whau River, pronounced "foe', takes its name from the whau tree. Once surrounded by lush native bush, the river was used as a transport route to Manukau Harbour by Maori. The estuary arm, which runs into Waitemata Harbour, was once a sanctuary for native birds and wildlife. Nowadays, many people refer to it as the "dirty old Whau'. A former psychiatric hospital in Pt Chevalier was named after it. Friends of the Whau was established in 1999 with a vision to clean up the river and replant its banks with native species. The group received a national Green Ribbon Award in 2002. More information: whauriver@xtra.co.nz