The owner of the Auckland property besieged by protesters battling to save a 500-year-old kauri is "mortified" by the media and community reaction to his plans to fell the tree.

Architect John Lenihan plans to build two housing sites on the land in Titirangi, which he bought in April 2013.

Mr Lenihan said he had received emails containing death threats to him and his family and had passed them to the police.

He emphasised that it had been a private property purchase.

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"We have at every step of the way followed both the appropriate level of engagement with council, including planners, geotech engineers, arborists and ecologists. We have also consulted with seven iwi groups and received support," he said.

"Whilst we regret that it [the kauri] has to go to make the plans work, the alternative was to destroy more native forest below.

The owners of the land at the centre of the furore, John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, in 2007. Photo / Toby Futter
The owners of the land at the centre of the furore, John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, in 2007. Photo / Toby Futter

"As law-abiding citizens within the community of Titirangi, who have done nothing but followed a normal process of obtaining a consent to build a dwelling, this is clearly very disturbing and upsetting."

His comments come as Conservation Minister Maggie Barry weighed into the debate.

On Facebook, she said today she was surprised by the Auckland Council decision not to notify her of their decision to remove the kauri, which she refers to as a 200-year-old tree, not 500-year-old as experts believe.

"As the Minister of Conservation I am very concerned that a mature kauri tree is under threat of being felled. Today I've asked the Department of Conservation chief executive to have urgent discussions with the chief executive of Auckland Council to find a way through this.

"I've been told that the Auckland Mayor [Len Brown] is now working with his officials in an effort to resolve the problem."

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Here is a statement sent to the Herald by Mr Lenihan:
We have been mortified by the media and community reaction to our plans to build on our land in Paturoa Road in Titirangi that we purchased a couple of years ago.

We want to emphasise that this was a private property purchase, which had nothing to do with the other businesses we are part of, particularly RCG Ltd.

As residents of Titirangi for over 40 years, we cherish the unique environment of the suburb, as we know so many others do. This is our home and we value it.

Moreover, as architects who over the years have built two homes of our own and designed many others in the area, we also have experience of working in empathy with the environment and alongside the council who work extremely hard to maintain the ecology of the local area.

So, in working on plans for our land in Paturoa Road we have at every step of the way followed both the appropriate level of engagement with council including planners, geotech engineers, arborists and ecologists. We have also consulted with seven iwi groups and received their support.

Our aim has been to develop the site with the least impact on the environment; the kauri tree in question has been mooted at being 500 years old, our advice from experts is that it is more likely 150 years old. Whilst we regret that it has to go to make the plans work, the alternative was to destroy more native forest below the site of the tree, so in fact it was the belief of Council, our consultants and ourselves that our plan was the more environmentally friendly option.

We question the motivation of some involved in the campaign, as we have been faced with opposition from some neighbours who would prefer that the land is not built on, which benefits them without them having to actually purchase the land. This has escalated and, we believe, played a part in this emotive campaign.

We are working on how to move forward now, and are consulting with Council as they have backed us every step of the way and dismissed concerns from a few neighbours as being rooted in personal motivations rather than genuine environmental concerns.

Finally, as a result of the social media frenzy of the last few days we have received threats on our lives, our children's lives and our property. As law-abiding citizens within the community of Titirangi, who have done nothing but followed a normal process of obtaining a consent to build a dwelling, this is clearly very disturbing and upsetting.