Just months after council approval to cut down a centuries-old kauri in Titirangi caused an outcry, officers are in the gun again over a stand of scheduled pine trees on the Blockhouse Bay skyline.
The 11 Monterey pines, planted in the town centre about 1920 by local pioneer Francis Gitto, are in the sights of the council's parks department which believes they pose a safety risk and can no longer be maintained.
An arborist's report has found three of the trees should be removed due to poor health and vitality. Parks staff have agreed to keep the pine closest to the village, but want to cut down the other 10.
Officers have ignored calls from residents and the Whau Local Board for public consultation on the trees, described in an arborist's report as of "historic importance" and a "significant landmark in Blockhouse Bay".
In a damning memo, the independent commissioner considering a planner's recommendation not to give the public a say has put the matter on hold until the council addresses a lack of engagement and transparency.
The commissioner, Barry Kaye, said he had received a number of public emails that indicated inadequate communication probably led to a "negative backlash".
Whau Local Board member Catherine Farmer, who can recall the trees from childhood, said officers had not got the message that people wanted to be consulted about the future of the trees.
She described the stand-off between the local board and officers as an insidious power struggle.
Suzanne Caron, a local resident and Tree Council board member, was shocked to learn about the fate of the Monterey pines, which, she said, were known to live for 150 years.
She said they had the highest protection of any trees in Auckland and should not be allowed to be cut down without public discussion.
Ms Caron accepted that three trees in poor health could be removed, but disagreed with the officers' view that their removal would put the remaining trees at greater risk of failing.
The arborist's report by Treescape Environmental said the other trees had a low risk of failing, but there was an unknown risk associated with decomposing wood properties. Assessing this risk would take several weeks or months and be costly.
The future of the trees has been a hot topic on a Blockhouse Bay Facebook site, with mixed views from local residents.
Grant Jennings, the parks manager for the western sector, said three of the trees were basically dead and needed to be removed, one was good and the other seven in very poor condition.
He said the council was considering whether the seven could stay for a while but they would have to be removed at some stage over the next three to five years.
In March, deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the council would review its consent process in the wake of claims the loss of the large kauri tree at a development in Titirangi was fudged and pushed through without public notification.
Council consent to destroy the kauri drew national attention when Michael Tavares spent four days up the tree.
What people are saying on the Blockhouse Bay Facebook page:
• Emma Kelly: Cut them down and start fresh, then we can have this argument again in another 20 years.
• Annee L-v: ... for many people these have a big significance. There should be more public consultation and explanation and an attempt to at least try and make them safe if there is any truth in a safety issue.
• John Fletcher: Each to their own but the trees are ugly, personally I don't like pine trees.
• Ross Porter: I support the council officers who are seeking to remove the scraggly old pines in the interests of safety and good arboriculture.
• Aprilanne Bonar: My point is (and I battled this myself for over a year before we decided to climb our #SaveOurKauri) make sure the process is followed and make sure the voices are heard.