The Auckland suburb of Birkenhead has succumbed to another deadly attack on native trees - this time the poisoning of four mature rimu and tōtara trees in Hinemoa Reserve.
Auckland Council has launched an investigation after drilled holes were found in the base of the trunk of one rimu tree and three tōtara trees in the posh harbourside suburb.
The poisoning of the trees, which are believed to be more than 100 years old, has angered volunteers who have spent years clearing the reserve of pests, pest weeds and undertaken extensive replanting of native trees.
One volunteer, Nigel Russell, says the poisoning and cutting down of trees is rife in Birkenhead, saying in many instances it is about improving views to the Waitematā Harbour.
"I'm gutted. Volunteers are trying to enhance the environment and we've got these selfish, entitled p***** going out there and cutting down or poisoning trees," he said.
Earlier this year, Auckland Council launched an investigation after a protected pōhutukawa tree was chopped down on a section with harbour views where a new house is planned at Hinemoa St.
A council spokeswoman said the investigation was complete and there should be an update on the next steps in a few weeks.
Last year, a number of pōhutukawa trees died after being poisoned on a site at Tizard Rd in Birkenhead where a developer has been planning to build a retirement village. The development company, Sino Dutch Developments Ltd, denied having anything to do with poisoning the trees.
Kaipatiki Local Board member Melanie Kenrick said there had been a lot of "assertive gardening" during lockdown, but there was a big difference between trimming trees and trees being poisoned.
Whoever was responsible for poisoning the trees in Hinemoa Reserve was showing a complete lack of respect for old trees, she said.
Kenrick said some people believe they know who is responsible for poisoning the trees but do not want to see a "lynch mob" approach to dealing with the issue.
"The issue I get very frustrated with is the level of proof/evidence that is needed by the council to follow through with a prosecution," she said.
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The council became aware of the poisoned trees after receiving a report of the damaged rimu from a resident. While they were inspecting the tree on Tuesday this week, they came across the poisoned tōtara trees, a spokeswoman said.
The council's compliance team has started an investigation to identify who has poisoned the trees. This has included a letter drop to 15 nearby residences to see if anyone saw anything.
The council has also put up signs, including on at least one of the affected trees, saying "This tree was unlawfully poisoned" in breach of the Reserves Act and the offence carries a fine of up to $100,000 and/or two years' imprisonment.
Russell said whatever the council does, it should not cut down the trees but leave them standing as a "tombstone".