Two well-known activists who occupied a traffic island in central Auckland in protest of the removal of 14 trees have been moved on by police.
Penny Bright and Lisa Prager of the Occupy Garnet Rd group have spent the past five days either sitting in a tree or occupying a digger on Quay St as contractors begin to remove trees from median islands along the busy central strip.
The Quay Street Cycleway Extension will connect the future Tamaki Drive cycleway to the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path.
Fourteen pohutukawa trees, planted in 1994, will be relocated.
Police arrived at the site about 11.30am and issued a trespass notice to both women.
Prager said she left on her own free will after being issued with the notice, while Bright refused to leave and was arrested by police and taken to the Auckland central police station.
"I feel very sad that the trees have been removed, and very angry at Auckland Transport's cavalier approach to the gateway to our city and how it is being destroyed for private buses," Prager said.
"I think it is a call to action to everyone in Auckland to realise that AT feels it has the right to destroy our natural heritage in order to support corporate endeavours."
Earlier at the site, Prager told the Herald that the pair discovered the trees were being removed five days ago and immediately went to the site and began an occupation.
They said they had no plans to leave their positions, despite work continuing on removing trees around them.
"We may not have enough people here today to physically stop them, but no one can say we haven't tried our best," Bright said.
"I believe the issues that are being raised are going to light a prairie fire."
Prager believes the act is eco-terrorism.
"I think anywhere that we have established trees, we should be preserving them.
"With the imminence of global warming it is irresponsible to behave like this in the middle of our city, just so private buses can park off peak," she said.
"Our achievement is to draw public awareness to how AT is showing very little regard for our natural environment.
"In Westmere they cut down 18 mature trees and paved over a berm for a cycleway and that is when we realised they are just paying lip service to being environmentally aware and socially conscious."
Bright said the trees played a vital role for the city's ecosystem.
"Trees in a heavy traffic area absorb carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and produce oxygen.
"We need more trees in established traffic areas, not less. According to the Auckland Tree Council Auckland has already lost one third of its urban tree canopy."
She said the pair had received a vast amount of support from the community during the occupation.
"As a veteran protester, what I go by is the toot-o-meter.
"If people toot they get it, and we have had a lot of support. We have had folk going past yelling verbal support, bikers ringing their bells and a lot of cars tooting."
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said it had spoken to the protesters last week.
"We respect the right of people to protest but they must do it safely," he said.
He pointed the Herald to the website for more information.
The extension accommodates a bus lane, parking for buses, two traffic lanes, and on-street parking.
Auckland Transport was granted resource consent to relocate the trees in September 2017 by independent commissioners.
The commissioner decision stated the "removal of these trees will result in a change to the environment. However, the median strip is not planted in its entirety and relies on the avenue of trees to provide a coherent, vegetated appearance".
"The effects from the loss of the 15 trees is acceptable, especially in the context of the overall enhancement of the amenity of the area through provision of a dedicated cycleway."
Under arborist supervision, most trees will be relocated to Teal Park and the rest within the city centre, the AT website states.
Auckland Transport has an after-care programme in place, and plans to look after and maintain the relocated trees for 36 months after replanting.
* Go to the Auckland Transport website for more information on the Quay Street Cycleway extension.