A Far North coastal community is up in arms after an historic, centuries-old pōhutukawa was cut down.
Felling of the large pōhutukawa, near the corner of Foreshore Rd and Wharo Way in Ahipara, started on Tuesday and came to a halt on Wednesday.
By then half the tree had been cut down.
Local hapū hope to save what remains and are demanding the Far North District Council takes action against the property owner.
The pōhutukawa was protected by a private covenant and thought to be centuries old.
It was described as a landmark tree in Te Rarawa's Ahipara management plan, which also lists the wider site as a wāhi tapu because it was the location of a marae destroyed by a tsunami in 1910. It was also the site of the tangi of a notable chief, Toakai.
The tree was, however, not listed on the council's Schedule of Notable Trees.
A steady stream of people has visited what's left of the tree in recent days, many of them expressing grief or anger.
Ahipara resident Rueben Taipari said felling started while many locals were at a tangi so it was Wednesday before they could put a stop to it.
An arborist had estimated the tree was more than 200 years old but land records suggested it was significantly older.
Taipari said the community would focus on saving what was left of the tree and use the incident as an opportunity for healing rather than ''staying in the space of being angry''.
However, they expected the council to hold the person responsible to account. ''If the authorities don't do what they're supposed to do they'll have a very upset community to deal with,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the council denies claims it gave the property owner permission to fell the pohutukawa.
District services general manager Dean Myburgh said the council was contacted on September 22 and asked about the tree's status.
The property owner was told the tree was not listed in the District Plan's Schedule of Notable Trees so he was allowed to prune it.
He was not told it could be removed.
He was also advised to check if the property had any covenants relating to the pōhutukawa.
Myburgh said the property owner should have been aware a private covenant specifically protected the large pohutukawa on Lot 1, 1 Wharo Way.
Myburgh said the council could not enforce private covenants. Instead it was up to the parties to the covenant to seek recourse if it was breached.
He said he shared the community's frustration and knew the tree was significant to whānau, hapū and iwi.
Councillor Felicity Foy attended a site meeting on Friday with council chief executive Shaun Clarke, Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi and local residents.
Another meeting was being held at 11am today. The property owner had been invited but it was not clear if he would attend.
He had been told he could trim the tree but she doubted the work done would fit any definition of trimming.
''It's been physically chopped in half,'' she said.
A karakia was performed at the site on Thursday and the wood declared tapu so it can't be removed.
A law passed by the then National government in 2009 removed all automatic protection for urban trees in New Zealand.
Since then the best protection for individual trees, especially on private land, is through the Schedule of Notable Trees.
However, that requires the public to nominate each tree for consideration by councils.
Nominations are judged on age, size, character and visibility, cultural or heritage values, or because the tree is critical to the survival of other species.
In 2017 Far North residents were given just one month to nominate trees to be added to the schedule.