A West Auckland man was nearly seriously injured this morning during a protest to protect dozens of mature native trees from development as one came crashing down right above him.
The dramatic scenes took place on Canal Rd, Avondale, where several sections originally home to 46 native trees, believed to be about 100 years old, have been on the market.
Nearly two weeks ago arborists started their work to clear the site before protesters turned up, and managed to stall the chainsaws after about 10 trees were felled.
Abel, a veteran environmental activist and now Green Party candidate for New Lynn, has returned the past 12 days and managed to keep the chainsaws at bay by scaling various trees, earning a trespass notice in the process.
But on Tuesday morning as he arrived the chainsaws were already under way, with contractors accompanied by several police officers who were blocking protesters.
Abel rushed to scale one of the trees, meanwhile workers continued cutting a large tree nearby. All of a sudden it came crashing onto the tree with Abel in it.
Dramatic video footage of the scene shows two police officers fleeing while Abel clings to the tree.
He told the Herald he was OK after the incident, and had remained in the tree since.
There were only about 18 trees remaining, but he and other protesters who'd joined managed to stall the contractors for now.
He'd been in discussion with owners from the Raymond family, and was willing to leave the tree if there was a guarantee no more chainsaws would be used today.
He continued to call for Auckland Council to step in and acquire the land, either by purchasing it or through a land swap.
"It is an absolute travesty that dozens of mature, native trees can just be chopped down, without any protection.
"It is an aggregious blot on the council that they have not done anything."
A report this month, and presented today to the council's Environment and Climate Change Committee, showed some parts of Auckland had lost nearly 10 per cent of their canopy cover in only a few years, largely due to development.
While there had been large canopy growth on public land, since blanket tree protections were removed from the Resource Management Act in 2012, came into force in Auckland in 2015, there had been dramatic reductions on private land.
Despite this, the council's Urban Ngahere Strategy advocates for protection of mature trees across the region, which Abel said it was not living up to.
"If the council is just going to let these trees come down, then that strategy is not worth the paper it is written on. If this clustre of native trees is not worth protecting then what will they protect?"
He also challenged the council on the purpose of its climate change plan, also presented at today's committee meeting.
"This just totally goes against both of those plans."
The Tree Council, which is not linked to or in support of the direct protest action, had approached the council about three years ago fearing development at the site, suggesting it purchase the land or look at land swap options, including the public reserve down the road which has comparatively few trees.
But nothing happened.
Spokeswoman Dr Mels Barton previously said while the RMA changes meant there was little the council could do to stop the trees being felled, it needed to be "more imaginative".
"It could have been an incredible gift to the people of Avondale, it is a beautiful site, but instead their approach has been a disgrace.
"It illustrates what is happening every day across Auckland, and what already happened here in this suburb in the past - it is a chainsaw massacre."
A council spokeswoman previously told the Herald it had no plans to purchase the property.
Canal Reserve, which was on the same road, already served the community's open space needs, she said.
While the council could not stop unprotected trees on private land being felled, it had various strategies and programmes to plant trees on council land, including the Urban Ngahere Strategy and the Million Trees programme.
The Herald has been unable to contact the section owners.
A police spokesman said officer have been at the property this morning and were continuing to "monitor the situation".
"The role of police is to ensure the safety of all and uphold the law and we are liaising with both parties in this matter," he said.