The giant kauri at the centre of a protest in West Auckland will be allowed to stay.

Owners of the Paturoa Rd sites where the 500-year-old kauri and a 300-year-old rimu were scheduled for removal, John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, have released an open letter saying the kauri tree can stay.

In a statement released to media, Mr Lenihan and Ms Greensmith, said they wanted to turn the two sites from a place of "conflict and division", to a place of "hope".

"...we don't want to play the games of others, games of blame, conflict and abuse, instead we have been trying to come up with solutions where no one loses everything but we all compromise," the letter says.


"Let the trees stay including the kauri which we have been calling 500, and the rimu called 300. It doesn't matter how old they are as they now need to stay."

Protest organiser Aprilanne Bonar said they were still digesting and reading the comments from Mr Lenihan and Ms Greensmith.

"This goes part way to achieving the outcome we require.

"When we released our statement yesterday there were a number of conditions on the statement that [they] have to meet, and it needs to be done in a formal legal way."

Ms Bonar said while it was "fantastic" news they still had some way to go.

"We need to go one step further in formalising that agreement and other matters that we have already released in our statement need to be addressed, which they haven't addressed.

"This has been going on for two years ... this is really great, this is fantastic, but it only goes part way to where we need to be."

Scroll down to read the full open letter.


Earlier the fight drew in top politicians, as officials scrambled for a resolution to the standoff.

Environment Minister Nick Smith yesterday told the Herald he hoped the tree, on Paturoa Rd in Titirangi, would be saved.

"I expressed to the [Auckland] mayor [Len Brown] a preference for the 200-year-old kauri to be spared, if at all possible, but that the Government respected the fact that it was a decision for the Auckland Council."

Mr Brown said last night the council was working with the property owner to consider other options and "another way forward".

"We have a clear focus on protecting kauri particularly in areas such as the Waitakeres, but in this case a resource consent was lawfully applied for and granted and that decision must stand," he said.

Labour's David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, also met with Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse over the kauri yesterday. "I'm hopeful that a review proposal will be supported," he said.

While he understood there was potential for further legal process if discussions around alternatives to tree felling failed, he hoped it would not reach this point.

Protester and kauri-sitter Michael Tavares, who has been camped out in the tree's branches since Monday, said he had spent a comfortable few nights in the kauri.

Protester Michael Tavares pictured high up in the branches of the 500 year old Kauri tree. Photo / Chris Gorman
Protester Michael Tavares pictured high up in the branches of the 500 year old Kauri tree. Photo / Chris Gorman

In a tweet this morning, Mr Tavares said he was "delighted" to hear the news."It's all happening this morning! we're delighted by initial reports!"He said once the tree was safe "I'm happy to come down".

"The weather is very clement, I'm well fed, I'm doing exercises to keep my body healthy," the 32-year-old self-employed tourism operator and qualified guide from Waiheke Island said.

He believed a council meeting this morning would produce a positive outcome.

Asked about toileting arrangements, Mr Tavares said: "Everything is very hygienic and I'm respecting the sacredness of this tree by not polluting it at all. I'm very well supported with good systems for getting things in and out." When asked if that meant buckets, he said: "Yeah - it's all very secure and hygienic."

Mr Tavares indicated last night he would hand himself in to New Lynn police when he comes down from the tree.

In a tweet he said: "I accept that I trespassed on private prop."

Mr Tavares told TV3's Firstline this morning that he accepted the "good will" of the letter and would now like to see it go through the proper processes.

"It's a great relief - that was always the condition of my coming down."

He said he "felt happy" to have been able to "do his bit" for the kauri tree, and believed his actions helped prevent the tree from coming down.

"I think it's fairly clear that 75 hours ago some people arrived in a truck with chainsaws ... and if I wasn't up this tree then it would be on the ground either as logs or on a log truck now."

Mr Tavares said once the resource consent was lifted, he would come down.

"Once I have a full understanding of that, and once its clear, I'm going to come down.

"When I come down that's not the end of the story for the people up here in Titirangi.

"It will be the end of the story of me sitting in a tree, but the developer up here really needs to sit down and have good will talks with the neighbours.

"These two trees are safe - that's great, but I think it might be time to start having a conversation nationally about our tree protection laws."

Meanwhile, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has condemned plans to fell the tree.

"I do not support the felling of any mature kauri trees, including the one currently under threat in Titirangi.

"I have urged the council to re-examine the processes which led to its decision not to notify the public of the outcome for this tree."

She was also aware of claims the kauri was 500 years old but an expert had told her the tree was closer to 100-200 years old.

Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the council would look at how it applies its environmental protection laws at a meeting this morning - and hit out at Government ministers for stepping into the kauri tree row when the council "followed your rules".

"When you unpack this, at one level it is a pretty straightforward resource consenting process - all the 'I's' dotted, all the 'T's' crossed, they [the developers] went through it. But then you have a look at the variables inside it - non-notified," she said on Newstalk ZB this morning.

"I'm really keen to suggest at the meeting that I'm chairing this morning, that we take this as a case and we look at have we dialled up the property rights versus environmental protection correctly. And I think it's a very good discussion to have in light of the fact the Resource Management Act is being reviewed as we speak."

It was a "finely balanced call" whether to notify the public of consent approval to fell a tree, she said. Not all approvals would result in a public notification.

"My point is, have we got that balance right? Each one you could debate 'notify or not notify'. I'm keen that we have look at, 'have we gone a little bit too far towards let's be the can-do council, get on and get-on with those consents?'."

The council had "gone through the process" correctly, she said, and would not "judicially review ourselves, because to be honest that's quite mad".

"However, the fact that [Conservation Minister] Maggie Barry and [Environment Minister] Nick Smith have weighed into this as two ministers who are responsible for removing the tree protection rules, and who are now giving us a hard time for it, I'm saying this is a really good chance to get round the table with them and say, 'you're reviewing the process, let's make sure that we're not opening ourselves up to this in future, have we dialled back environmental protection too far, and are we cutting the community out too much?'

"We followed your rules Nick and Maggie, have we got them right?"

In a statement released this morning, Ms Hulse said she welcomed the statement from the developers to save the tree, but ruled out any possibility of the council buying the Titirangi property.

"Given their commitment to keep the tree, I hope they will now be given some space to work through this conversation with our staff. And we have asked our best urban and environmental planners to engage with them to see if we can make the site work for them," she said, describing the furore over the decision as a "very difficult and distressing situation for them and their family".

Jane Greensmith and John Lenihan have released an open letter saying the kauri tree must stay. Photo / AP
Jane Greensmith and John Lenihan have released an open letter saying the kauri tree must stay. Photo / AP

Open letter from John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith

This is an open letter to the people of Auckland from myself John Lenihan and my wife Jane Greensmith, as today is our 20th wedding anniversary. Over these 20 years Jane and I have practised as architects who live and work in Auckland.

We have only ever built 2 houses for ourselves both in Titirangi.

The first house the year we got married, and I became a partner in RCG Ltd where I still work today. The second house we built 15 years ago and is the house our kids have grown up in. Both houses were on challenging sites, but as Jane's dad who was an architect too, used to say "those are architect's sites - difficult, complicated, fun and full of potential!"

As architects we work in a city that we believe is under stress, as there is significant population growth. This is mostly from people like us having kids and because it is a great city.

But Auckland is under huge stress - it needs homes for extra people, and it needs affordable homes, and it needs homes of all types everywhere. This means change and many people hate change, and this adds more stress.

We wanted to be part of changing all this in our own small but optimistic way, so along with helping our clients achieve this, we thought we would try and build again and be our own client. We came across 2 lovely sites on Paturoa Rd and again they were "Architects sites".

The rules for building in this part of Auckland and a lot of other areas are in our opinion very complex, often contradictory and from an outdated planning paradigm that gets added to in adhoc ways that just keep making things worse.

The process to follow in making and processing applications is also too complex, contradictory and adhoc.

There is very little certainty, so it is no wonder that Auckland is not building enough.

Adding to this is the rapidly rising cost of land and building materials and you have the recipe for more stress. There are no easy answers to any of this, but we believe we all have to try. This what we teach our kids.

We believe that the situation that has occurred at Paturoa Rd Titirangi is the outcome of the stress Auckland is under and the systems and processes we are given to work under. We believe that there needs to be a financial return for undertaking building work. Banks require it when they give you a mortgage, they don't call it a profit they call it the banks "margin of risk". Building is very risky, difficult, time consuming and prohibitively expensive.

Jane & I did not make the rules but we have to work with them and follow the law.

If we don't, we lose the right to be Architects. We believe in law and order, but as architects we also understand conflicting needs and different opinions, but to resolve these you need good systems and processes. We don't believe these are good enough in the present regulatory process. The Auckland Unitary Plan might be an opportunity to change this, but not by keeping those old systems and paradigms. Maybe we need to try some brand new things.

Over the past few days we have been overwhelmed with the agendas of Council, politicians, protesters, and so on. We were quite normally private people but now we have been dragged into being public figures. We don't have media training and crisis management skills and there are some who want us to take all the blame.

Our family, friends and colleagues and clients have been supporting us. So we have had to learn, adapt and change, because we are architects and that's what architects are trained to do.

However we don't want to play the games of others, games of blame, conflict, and abuse, instead we have been trying to come up with solutions where no-one loses everything but we all compromise, and is something new and hopeful that looks forward and not backward.

This is our Plan - Architects call it a design solution;

1. Let the trees stay including the kauri which we have been calling 500, and the Rimu called 300. It doesn't matter how old they are as they now need to stay. Some other trees might have to go - this is the compromise bit, but let's keep it to a minimum. Trees grow faster than you all think.
Our wise elderly neighbour reckons the kauri "500" is only 70 years old like him.
2. Let's turn these two sites from a place of conflict and division to a place of hope, a place to come together and plan a different future.
3. Let's be innovative and consider new processes and new rules and prototype these and make it part of the Unitary Plan Process.
4. Let's build on these sites as we need to keep property law intact and create homes. Our NZ is about family and community and nature. Can we try and have it all with small compromises?
5. Let's build affordable, sustainable homes and try and fit as many as we can on these sites so that it works economically, socially and environmentally.
If we throw out the current rules we could do something a lot better than where we had got to with these houses.
6. Let's take Jane and I out of the equation and give us fair compensation for our land and efforts to date as we have not broken the law and we need to encourage others to build and not be punished. Let's respect the laws we have and try to improve them in the future.
7. Let's allow Treescape and Vector, iwi and council to own the sites on the public's behalf and let's forgive them too. Give them a chance to try something new and create something better from this current mess. The compromise is they have to work together as a team and communicate quickly and professionally.

That's our plan and this is what architects do.
We make plans for the future.
We hope everyone can support this, because then it will be the best 20th wedding anniversary!

500 years ago...

• The Great Plague hit various parts of Tudor England between 1509-1510.
• In 1512 Copernicus writes Commentariolus, and proclaims the sun the centre of the solar system.
• The Protestant Reformation begins in 1517 when the German Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses in Saxony.
• Leonardo da Vinci dies of natural causes on May 2, 1519.
• King Henry VIII, famous for beheading two of his six wives, sat on the English throne between 1509-1547.
• In 1487 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama
was the first to sail down the west coast of Africa and round the Cape of Good Hope in search of a new route to India avoiding the Mediterranean.
• In 1492 the Italian Christopher Columbus was the first to sail due west across the Atlantic from Lisbon, believing it would take him to China. He found the Caribbean islands, which he called the West Indies.
• 1476 William Caxton sets up a printing press in England.

- with additional reporting by NZME.