A man who last night slept in the branches of a 500-year-old kauri in protest of plans to axe the native tree says he is prepared to stay there for "as long as it takes".

Michael Tavares, 32, positioned himself up the tree in the west Auckland suburb of Titirangi early yesterday morning, to protest the scheduled felling of the centuries-old kauri to make way for two houses that have consent to be built on the site.

The 500-year-old kauri has been marked for destruction. Photo / Jason Dorday
The 500-year-old kauri has been marked for destruction. Photo / Jason Dorday

A neighbouring 300-year-old rimu is also due to be chopped down.

He nestled himself high on a kauri branch hours before contractors arrived about 7.30am yesterday, and remained there throughout the day and night.


This morning he told TV One's Breakfast programme he had "a good night's sleep" in the treetop and felt "very energised".

"I'm hoping today is the day for change," he said. "I'm hoping Auckland Council and the developer and everyone can be adults about this, and not turn this into a stale-mate stubbornness contest."

He added: "I'm hoping for a quick resolution, and we as a community up here in the campaign are prepared to take as long as it takes."

Mr Tavares said if the issue was not resolved today, he had "the community around me bringing me food, I have no need to come down".

"I'm very comfortable," he told the broadcaster.

Two others also reportedly camped out on the Titirangi property overnight.

One News also reported that the owner and developer of the two properties, John Lenihan, claimed he has had threats of violence made against him and his family over the plans to fell the tree, which he said he was legally entitled to do.

Around 100 people gathered at Paturoa Rd early yesterday in protest, with thousands more joining the protest online.


Former Prime Minister Helen Clark weighed into the row, showing support for the protesters and claiming it was "extraordinary in this day and age that a permit would be given to fell a 500-year-old tree".

Yesterday, police officers served Mr Tavares with a verbal trespass notice authorised by Mr Lenihan, who declined to talk to media.

At the site, residents and supporters were joined by members from Reweti Marae and mana whenua (guardians of the land).

Member Chris Pairama, a long-time environmental activist, said it was an emotional time for those whose family -- like his own -- had been living in the region for generations.

"I find this situation horribly distasteful ... there has been no community and iwi consultation."

Naomi Singer, who has lived in the area since last year, said many in the community were outraged at the removal of a treasure. "This is a taonga and this is why we live in Titirangi - the trees, the lushness and the privacy. They just shouldn't be taking down a 500-year-old tree."

New Lynn MP David Cunliffe said the Government's changes to the Resource Management Act - which removed protection for urban trees - was to blame.

"We can ill-afford to lose 500-year-old special kauri trees in Titirangi ... The fact that a non-notified consent was granted without consultation even with the neighbours indicates that the weakening of the RMA has gone too far."

Auckland Council, which has granted resource consent to build on the site and therefore approved the removal of the trees, said yesterday that it had no mandate to revoke consent.

Due to get the chop:

• Auckland Council has granted two resource consents for developers to build two residential homes on site.

• The consents mean approval for the 500-year-old kauri, a 300-year-old rimu and other trees to be removed.

• Contractors removed several trees from the site last week.

• The council said yesterday it had no mandate to revoke consent, despite pressure from the public.