Former Labour leader David Cunliffe and model Rachel Hunter have lent their support to the battle to save a 500-year-old kauri in Auckland - but it seems Cunliffe's offer to climb the tree isn't wanted.

Protester Michael Tavares, who is 20 metres up the that tree that is marked for felling to make way for a housing development in Titirangi, advised Mr Cunliffe not to join him.

Mr Cunliffe, who is the MP for neighbouring New Lynn, said he was considering climbing the tree as well, to help the cause, and is looking into the legalities.

"For the sake of the tree and for the values of it I think that it's best if as few hands and feet touch it as possible," Mr Tavares said. "I personally wish I didn't have to be up here."


Labour leader Andrew Little yesterday warned Mr Cunliffe to be careful to not fall out of the tree, and said permission to cut the kauri down should never have been given.

"Some things actually ought to be preserved and conserved, and I hope that the kauri tree, which predates the European nation established, would be one of the things we would preserve."

Mr Tavares said a meeting had been held between concerned parties and he hoped a resolution would be reached this morning.

Michael Tavares has been up the targeted kauri since Monday. Photo / Chris Gorman
Michael Tavares has been up the targeted kauri since Monday. Photo / Chris Gorman

"What I'm hoping that happens is the council does find a way, even though it says it can't, it does find a way to revoke the consent to fell the tree, and that it's open to a proper consultation."

Rachel Hunter also weighed into the battle, posting on her Facebook page: "I just heard about the kauri tree 500 years old. Are you f***ing crazy!!! Save that TREE. How dare this even be an issue!!!"

Hunter included two upright tree emojis in the post for added emphasis.

She added: "It is imperative to our amazing next generation tech hippies and to the future of the next generations to have these incredible trees."

The high-profile interventions come as a kauri dieback expert believed something had gone "really wrong" for the kauri to be listed for felling without being checked for the disease.


Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng, a lecturer in biological sciences at Auckland University, said the kauri was on a road in Titirangi riddled with kauri dieback, but this tree had not been tested for the disease.

"A number of properties have confirmed cases of dieback. If this tree is healthy it's even more significant because it may have some resistance to the dieback disease."

She said if the tree tested positive for the disease then strict biosecurity processes would need to be undertaken through the felling process to ensure the disease didn't spread.

It would also mean consequences around any removal or shifting of soil from the property. "Something has gone really wrong for these biosecurity processes not to be put in place," Dr Macinnis-Ng said.

People have speculated the kauri could be 500 years old, and Dr Macinnis-Ng said she believed that estimate to be about right.

She said a tree of that age and size held significant benefits for the environment. "The ecological value of a single tree can be really significant and ... it just seems like that hasn't been fully considered in the process."

In the Waitakeres 11 per cent of kauri are infected with dieback.

Protest organiser Aprilanne Bonar said another day of protesting had gone well. "Today has been really encouraging ... Michael is doing really well ... we're all standing firm."

Ms Bonar said a ropes and pulley system was delivering Mr Tavares' supplies, but all processes were taken to protect the kauri from any harm.

She said there was no indication of how long Mr Tavares would stay up in the tree. Protesters were expected to converge on the property again today in the hope of a resolution with Auckland Council.

- with additional reporting from NewstalkZB and NZME.