Tree wars in Auckland's Western Springs have been put on hold for 24 hours while the council holds talks with affected neighbours.
Auckland Council is using emergency powers to chop down 13 pines trees considered to be an immediate risk of falling as residents accuse council of flouting its own resource consent process.
In a statement issued this afternoon, council's acting head of operations and maintenance Simon Randall said he understood the concerns of residents and work would be delayed for 24 hours to hold talks.
Due to the seriousness of the risk, Randall said, the 13 dead and dying trees would be felled under the emergency provisions of the Unitary Plan. This did not circumvent a separate resource consent application to clearfell all 200 remaining pine trees in a 3.2ha block behind Western Springs lake, he said.
The works, scheduled to go from tomorrow until Friday, would now begin on Wednesday morning at 8am and pause over Auckland Anniversary Weekend, finishing on Tuesday next week.
Lawyer Deborah Manning, who lives in one of three houses in West View Rd that needed to be evacuated while the trees were removed, said the council's approach was unfortunate.
"I cannot see how it makes any difference. There are strong issues of fact in dispute, namely safety issues and the need for emergency measures. I consider these need resolving with a clear, rational and transparent approach," she said.
She and Waitemata councillor Mike Lee have accused the council of not following due process under the Resource Management Act.
Manning said the decision to cut down the 13 trees comes in the same week planning commissioners asked the council to answer questions over removing all 200 pine trees.
Lynette Forday, who lives in one of the three houses, said she had no plans to evacuate her four children and a kitten from the house while the 13 trees were felled.
Randall said Worksafe rules meant residents had to leave their homes while the trees were being felled.
"The council's arboriculture contractor will doorknock the affected properties to ensure that they are empty while the works take place. The works will not continue while the properties are occupied," he said.
Forday, a former Shortland Street star, said council has used a comment she made to remove 13 pine trees in Western Springs.
She said she told council officers who visited her property in November that there was one tree that did need cutting down, but told them not to cut down any other trees.
"I made one comment about one tree that was dangerous, not 13. I said to them when they were standing on my property 'please don't cut down my trees. They are beautiful, this is why we bought our house'," said Forday, who played fun-loving doctor Grace Kwan on Shortland Street for three years.
Randall said when the dangerous tree was identified, it was inspected by a council and independent arborists, who found adjacent trees at risk.
Forest & Bird Auckland regional manager Nick Beveridge said it was unacceptable to use the emergency provisions to remove 13 trees now because it was in the middle of the bird breeding season.
He said the ecological report done for council as part of the consent application to remove all 200 pine trees said "all tree works should take place outside of the bird breeding and nesting season" between August and February.
Mike Wilcox, a retired professional forester and urban botanist, said the pines at Western Springs were the oldest big stand of pines in Auckland at nearly 100 years old.
Wilcox said he had been in Western Springs and from what he could see the trees had stopped growing years ago, were stagnating, dying on their feet and being removed one-by-one.
About 300 pines had already been removed or died in the past 20 years, and 62 per cent of the remaining "are either dead, have heavily reduced canopies, have sustained damage by fire or are visually displaying poor health", according to council.
Wilcox said there had been lots of reports by competent arborists into the pines at Western Springs in recent years, but it was news to him that suddenly 13 had become immediately hazardous and could not wait for the planned general felling.
Another issue, he said, was the question of the logging and native vegetation under the pines being wiped out. The area is designated a Significant Ecological Area.