I know neighbour's trees are not a community asset but it does seem that in the once leafy suburbs of Epsom and Greenlane (and maybe elsewhere) new landowners don't seem to place the same enjoyment on gardens and trees as we who have grown up with them.

I grew up planting trees. Wherever my parents lived we planted trees, lots of them. And 40 years on they are now magnificent and vital. I have done the same. When we had to remove an old pear tree for a drive I felt so guilty I promptly replaced it.

I have lived in our little street for nearly 20 years. We moved into our house and made it a family home like our neighbours opposite with children the same age. Of the other seven houses in this little avenue, three were the homes of families and three retired couples.

Our closest neighbour was born in the street and his daughter, her husband and their children lived in the house next door. Another neighbour lived in three houses in the street and his wife created beautiful gardens in them all.


As a street near Cornwall Park you can imagine lots of people walk its pavements every day enjoying the gardens and trees - a natural part of community.

Two years ago when our elderly neighbour died, his daughter sold both houses and they were bought by a developer. We had seen what they had done nearby and our hearts sank.

I visited them when they moved in but this was a challenge in itself because they had barricaded themselves behind a new large wooden fence at which their two ferocious German shepherd dogs would throw themselves (but that's another story).

I called out, waved and introduced myself, we swapped phone numbers. I told her how precious the trees were to us all in the neighbourhood (two neighbours had joined me to echo this) and to the birds that lived in them. She promised us the trees were safe - "no chop down".

A few months later I got a text from another neighbour, when I was in Wellington. Back home the next day I had a few tears. The 100-year-old-plus kahikatea, close to the pavement, between two wide concrete driveways, a magnificent and beautiful tree in which a kereru often sat, was now a stump.

When I saw their development plans I saw it was intended the tree go for a third driveway - creating a 9m width of concrete. It made no sense. I've seen apartment blocks of 10 sharing a single driveway.

Over coming months went the glorious ginkgo, the fig tree on the school boundary fence, a weeping pear, even cherry branches on the council berm. Listening to the chain saw and chipper shredding another tree - the lungs of this street - I am now desperately fearful for the holly tree and huge copper beech.

I'm also sad that of the nine houses in our little street, three are sitting empty (one for over a year), three are tenanted (and showing the unloved signs of so many tenanted houses) and only two have people living in them who intend to live here for as long as they can. And we are one of them. The community has vanished.

All over the world cities are trying to go green, bring back birds and flowers for bees - look at the New York high line. I grew up in a city full of beauty, birds, trees, cherished gardens, and a magnet for bees.

Houses and trees have gone. This beautiful city is changing and I am powerless to do anything to stop the uglification. The twitterati remind me when I mourn trees the National Government simplified tree rules and removed the council's ability to provide blanket protection.

Since protection was removed, so many beautiful trees have gone and stupidly so many are cut down in spring when birds are nesting.

A tree loving friend shared an article from America on how health researchers in Northern California are using big data to research the value of different types of green space: street trees, park spaces and private gardens. They have discovered investing $1 in planting and maintaining urban trees would reduce health care costs nearby by $10 to $100.

So walking or driving down a beautiful street is more than beautiful, it's good for us. Do enough of our city councillors realise what is happening in our city? It's time they did something about it.

• Victoria Carter has lived in Auckland for over 40 years.