The Tupuna Maunga Authority's carefully thought out development plans for Auckland's volcanic cones is a good news story that every Aucklanders should be embracing. What a shame the marketing of it has been so dire.
True, you can't always choose your friends. The authority didn't need loose cannon former MP Tau Henare's recent attack on the Mt Albert locals trying to save mature exotic trees from the authority's chain-saws. He belittled them as a "bunch of woke, entitled, Pakeha" in a nose-thumbing, lord of the manor arrogant display.
I support the endgame as set out in the management plan, especially the landscape aim to "preserve and enhance the authenticity and visual integrity of the Tupuna Maunga so that they are markers in the landscape and their cultural and natural features are visually apparent."
It would be odd if I didn't. After all I've been arguing for just such a policy in this column for nigh on 20 years. But I have to admit, that in the midst of the global warming crisis, and the epidemic of tree felling in suburban gardens across the isthmus in recent years, I find it hard to understand the authority's need for the prior ethnic cleansing of alien olives and oaks from this particular maunga as well.
Owairaka/Mt Albert has been so badly disfigured by a century of mining that it surely needs all the cosmetic make-up going. To insist on ripping up 345 mature exotics before replacing them with around 10,000 baby native shrubs and trees at least needed further explanation to concerned locals and not abuse.
Just over five years ago came good news for Auckland's much abused maunga. The 14 Crown-owned cones were officially vested to a collective of local tribes as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement, on the condition they be maintained as "reserves" for the common benefit of all Aucklanders – both Maori and others.
Placing these 14 cones together under the protective umbrella of their own authority was a great move - even if the Crown did sneakily lumber Aucklanders with the on-going costs of this treaty settlement. At last the much-neglected cones had a statutory guardian to speak out on their behalf.
It was not before time. As Bruce Hayward outlines in his just-published "Volcanoes of Auckland. A Field Guide," of the 38 volcanoes with intact scoria cones existing when Auckland was founded in 1840, 15 have been "completely removed by quarrying and a further nine have been fiercely ravaged."
Owairaka/Mt Albert was one of the latter, between 1860 and 1959, having lost 1.5 million cubic metres of scoria for road and rail line building.
Tree protesters slammed as 'woke, entitled Pākehā'
Time ticking and costs mounting for Mt Albert tree removal
As recently as the early 2000s, neighbouring Mt Roskill seemed destined to having its northern face bulldozed off to make way for the south western motorway. It was only saved by the dogged volunteers from the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society who at the last minute, halted the destruction with a long forgotten piece of legislation from 1915, designed to protect the cones from earlier abuse.
The Cones Society has continued to battle on behalf of the cone field, with particular emphasis on their landscape value, fighting, for example, to preserve the planning viewshafts that provide a constant reminder as we travel about, that we live atop a field of volcanoes.
Now, thanks to the Crown's need to find land to flesh out it's Treaty settlement with local iwi, the cones have gained a champion. The management plan includes the Cone Society's emphasis on preserving landscape values, along with a list that includes upholding values, spiritual, cultural and heritage. In a gesture of inclusiveness, the list adds the desire to "recognise European and other histories, and interactions with the maunga." You might have thought a few mature oaks and olives might have squeezed into that category.
The plan is to plant 74,000 new natives around the cones by 2021, over 19,000 have already been planted over the 12 months to last August. Owairaka/Mt Albert's 10,000 were to be next. That 345 mature foreigners have to die before this can go ahead seems, shall we say, counter-productive on all sort of levels. And so unnecessary.
The New Zealand Herald apologises for upset caused by publication of the Bromhead cartoon that accompanied this column on Wednesday. No harm was meant or intended. We regret causing offence and the cartoon has been removed.