The Tauranga neighbourhood stoush over the future of an avocado tree has resulted in a victory for those who want it gone - but not without conditions.
The tree is located on a Tauranga City Council berm on 13th Ave but owners of 5 13th Ave have, since January, fought to have the tree removed as part of plans to subdivide the property. The prospect has sparked deep concern from neighbours who want the tree - believed to be at least 44 years old - to stay.
Today , councillors voted unanimously to allow for the removal of the mature tree, subject to the housing project satisfying all relevant regulatory requirements.
Councillor Heidi Hughes originally moved to decline the application for the tree's removal, saying any potential replacement would not be of the same value.
Hughes was seconded by councillor Jako Abrie. However, the motion was lost after failing to acquire any other support.
Instead, the council voted to remove the tree but only after adding the condition citing the project meeting requirements.
Hughes said she supported the amended motion as it was the second-best option behind saving the tree.
"We are building a city not for this generation but for the next," she said.
"There are lots of briefings around climate change, storm control - what do we do with all of that to enable our trees to survive and keep our trees in our environment?
"We also represent our community, it's obvious that the community value the tree, we should also value the tree."
Councillor Andrew Hollis said the removal of mature trees had been happening in Tauranga for years and this situation was no different. He referred to trees established nearby at the eastern end of 13th Ave that people could enjoy, "they just have to take a few extra steps".
Councillor Kelvin Clout said he felt sorry for the tree "but I take some comfort that we've spent 90 minutes speaking about its demise, but that's something the tree itself will take to its grave."
The decision followed public submissions by nine speakers, including property owners Luanne and Garry Bettelheim.Luanne Bettelheim told councillors: "We have willingly agreed to extend the resource consent process to allow for today's meeting. Our plans are compliant, and finally, we are a family. We are not developers. We are a family with two children who love living in the avenues."
Architect Brendon Gordon said the project was now fully compliant and met the appropriate residential regulations, despite some misinformation about this being spread about.
Gordon said he felt the council's first assessment of the application to remove the tree was "biased" and the suggestion amending the design to create a shared driveway was not ideal.
He also referred to a neighbour removing a tree when that home was being built and that there appeared to be little opposition to this by comparison.
Phil Green, chairman of the Grace Road And Neighbourhood Residents Association and architectural designer presented a poem, of sorts, to the council in which he referred to himself as an avocado tree.
Green's presentation reiterated the importance of keeping the tree and the value local residents hold the tree in.
Resident Christine Price said 98 per cent of residents in the immediate area wanted the tree to stay.
"This should be taken into account."
Price also raised concern about the loss of car parks due to the installation of driveways. Parents arriving to pick up their children from St Mary's school were already arriving an hour early just to find a carpark, she said.
In January, the Bettelheims applied under the council's Vegetation and Tree Management Policy to have the tree removed for the purpose of a subdivision.
Removing the tree would create practical car access, in accordance with the City Plan, to the property's proposed design but council staff declined the application as the request did not meet clauses required.