A protected pohutukawa has been given the all clear to be felled after a Tauranga property owner successfully argued the tree's leaves were blocking gutters and its roots cracking retaining walls and paths.

Glenys Joy Eaton, the owner of 246 Devonport Rd, applied for resource consent to remove the notable tree.

The hearing before independent hearing commissioner David Mead on November 25 saw arguments for and against removal of the 13.5m high tree.

Mr Mead's decision to grant the application was made on the grounds that the pohutukawa was not a notable example of the species, did not have heritage value and was of "moderate botanical value".


He said the removal of the tree would reveal an existing 16m kauri growing up through the pohutukawa, and give the kauri space to grow. The kauri would be protected.

Another condition of the consent was that an additional tree would be planted on the front yard.

It meant that the adverse effects on the "treed" landscape character of the area would not be significant, Mr Mead said.

"The pohutukawa tree is causing ongoing maintenance issues and some damage to the house.

"These effects do outweigh any residual visual effects arising from the removal of the pohutukawa," he said.

The application was opposed by the council on the basis that removing the tree would adversely affect the landscape character and amenity values of the area.

The council offered to replace two of its quarterly gutter cleaning services with a more extensive maintenance programme.

One of the two submitters opposed to the application, the Grace Road and Neighbourhood Residents Association, was concerned that removing the tree would undermine the integrity of the City Plan's tree policy.

The association was also concerned that the justification for removal was based on the tree no longer meeting the standard for a notable tree, rather than on the merits of the case.

Association member and planner Keith Frentz argued that the tree policy deliberately set a high bar to the removal of a notable tree because of the limited number of listed trees.

He said the evaluation of the application should have begun with an analysis of actions to retain the tree, such as removing dead branches and comprehensive maintenance assistance.

Mr Frentz said the next notable tree was 170m away, with the area's two other listed trees 275m and 400m distant.

He said this made the removal of the pohutukawa potentially significant.

Three of the 25 submitters who supported the application spoke at the hearing, including former city councillor Murray Guy who argued that once it had been identified the tree was causing harm, then the resident must retain their right to remove the tree.

A former owner of the property and a former tenant both testified to the amount of maintenance caused by leaf fall and water damage to the 93-year-old house.

The former owner talked about concrete paths being lifted, constant repairs to a side gate and the time the tree's roots blocked a sewer line.