Campaigners promise to take authority to court to save six pohutukawa from the axe

Tree campaigners are vowing to go to court if Auckland's roading authority presses on with plans to chop down six 80-year-old pohutukawa.

The "Pohutukawa Savers" coalition said it would meet Auckland Transport in the Environment Court if the authority didn't sheath its chainsaws.

The authority wants to fell the six mature natives to widen Great North Rd where it joins St Lukes Rd in Western Springs at a Northwestern Motorway overbridge. The project is linked to the New Zealand Transport Agency's widening of the motorway, which in turn is linked to the motorway tunnels and new spaghetti junction connecting to the Southwestern Motorway at Waterview.

In a bid to save the ageing natives, campaigners have wrapped the trunks in colourful ribbons and hung banners which read: "Save Us" and "Auckland Transport Wants To Kill Us".

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Auckland Transport intends to "mitigate the removal" of the big trees by "comprehensive replanting", including nine 6m-high pohutukawa beside the widened thoroughfare, according to the authority's planning documents.

Independent commissioners, led by Leigh McGregor, supported Auckland Transport's plan, agreeing it was necessary to help the authority achieve its "one network" approach to state highways and local roads.

The planning consent ball is now back in Auckland Transport's court. It expects to decide by month's end if it will accept the commissioners' recommendation. If it does, the next step is to ask the council for a consent under the Resource Management Act.

Submitters then have 15 days to appeal.

The Pohutukawa Savers group said an alternative would be to retain the trees and build a shared footpath/cycleway between them and the carpark beside the motorway.

Spokeswoman Jolisa Gracewood, a Pt Chevalier writer and mother of two, said members would appeal unless the tree-removal plan was dropped. The group had received strong support, with more than 2000 people endorsing an online petition for the trees to be saved.

Against removing trees

Jolisa Gracewood, Pohutukawa Savers' spokeswoman

These grand old trees are a vital element of the area's history and living heritage.

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They were planted in 1934 as part of a continuous avenue of pohutukawa along Great North Rd, to beautify the newly created public green space as a gift to the citizens of Auckland.

As such, they belong to all Aucklanders and are on open park land under the responsibility of the Waitemata Local Board.

These trees form a spectacular streetscape that welcomes visitors to the Western Springs parks precinct.

Trees of this stature are crucial to the urban ecosystem, providing shade, air-filtering and stormwater dispersal, as well as a habitat for native birds.

People all over Auckland, and beyond, are aghast at their proposed destruction.

For removing the trees

Greg Edmonds, AT chief development officer

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Auckland Transport would not have supported the application to remove six pohutukawa trees from Great North Rd if there had been any other option.

Having submitted the matter to a commissioner, we have no comment to make on the commissioner's decision other than to say appropriate democratic process was followed.

The proposed works will help the entire Waterview, State Highway 16, State Highway 20 complex operate to its full potential, which will also help reduce Auckland's congestion.

We regret that the trees will be lost, but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended bus lane and bus priority measures in Great North Rd.