The activist trying to protect a Norfolk pine tree north of Auckland has been arrested.

Contractors have axed around the tree's trunk, cutting off its nutrients.

Snells Beach locals were outraged when developers obtained a non-notified consent to cut down the tree to make way for 30 houses.

Activist Charlie Cottrell-Jury climbed up the towering pine this morning - and had planned to stay overnight.

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But he scrambled down to try and stop contractors from ring barking when they took to it with an axe earlier this evening.

"It just kills the tree standing. So I went down to try and prevent them from doing that but the cops grabbed me, pulled me down and took me back to the station," Cottrell-Jury said.

The 150-year-old Norfolk pine at Snells Beach where developers want to build 30 houses. Photo / Michele MacKenzie
The 150-year-old Norfolk pine at Snells Beach where developers want to build 30 houses. Photo / Michele MacKenzie

Police say the activist was arrested at 4:30pm and will be charged for trespassing.

"The ring barking was to make it not worthwhile me being up there because I'd be trying to save a dead tree," Cottrell-Jury said. "So they [the contractors] have gone and will come back tomorrow to take it down."

Cottrell-Jury's hammock and supplies remain in the tree and will be collected tomorrow.

It's understood contractors will return first thing tomorrow morning to finish felling the tree.