A group protesting against the removal of hundreds of exotic trees from an Auckland maunga say they will not attend an upcoming hui as the outcome is "predetermined".
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA), which manages the city's 14 tūpuna maunga (ancestral mountains), plans to remove 345 exotic trees from Ōwairaka/Mt Albert as part of a long-term native restoration project.
But a group of protesters have occupied the maunga since November 11, preventing contractors from starting what was meant to be a month-long job.
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The authority has announced a hui at 10am on Thursday to address concerns and allow people to have their say.
Protest organiser Anna Radford said they would not be attending the hui as it did not include a third-party mediator and they feared the outcome was predetermined.
They had tried to meet earlier but felt the authority had acted in poor faith, she said.
"One time we agreed on a date but they said we needed to leave the maunga to allow contractors to start setting up. We said no, that would be an own goal."
Radford said they had been calling for a third-party facilitator but that request had been ignored.
TMA chair Paul Majurey said the protest response was "surprising" given a meeting was originally their idea.
Their previous three attempts to meet with protesters had been "met with resistance".
As to "predetermining" the outcome, Majurey said the group had confused themselves about the TMA.
"The work of the TMA as a statutory authority is not a negotiation."
Majurey said the trees needed to be removed all in one go to minimise disturbance to both the maunga and the people who used it.
About 500 native trees would remain on the maunga after the removals, along with the 3000 native trees and shrubs planted this year. Another 10,000 would be planted over the next year.
Several of the species were also classed as pests, and some including the eucalyptus trees posed a danger with their shallow root systems and falling branches.
The resource consent also included a requirement no tree be removed that contained nesting birds.
The native restoration process was supported by Forest and Bird and the Tree Council.
Despite the authority releasing much information over the past few weeks about the tree removal process, the protesters remained concerned about the speed of the removals and potential impacts on bird life.
"They said they consulted with us on the plan, but nowhere in those public documents did it mention 345 trees were being felled," Radford said.
"We support the overall plan and restoring native vegetation, just not removing them all at once and not during bird breeding season."
Previously residents have stated support for the project, with some calling the opposition a "slap in the face" for Māori and ignoring the history of colonisation and land alienation.
Radford said they were not there to be insensitive to any culture, nor question Māori ownership.
"We are just here to protect trees and wildlife."
The city's 14 tūpuna maunga were transferred to the mana whenua tribes of Auckland in a 2014 Treaty settlement.
They are managed by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, made up of six iwi representatives, six Auckland Council representatives and one non-voting Crown representative.
The authority is independent of the Council and has decision-making powers and functions.
Majority of the city's maunga were important Māori pā (settlements), making them separate from other parks and open spaces in that they were wāhi tapu - sites of immense spiritual, ancestral, cultural, customary, and historical significance to mana whenua.
The tree removals are the latest in the wider restoration project to replace hundreds of exotic trees on the city's maunga with 74,000 new native trees and shrubs by 2021, to "restore the mana".
In March, 150 trees were removed from Māngere Mountain/Te Pane o Mataoho/Te Ara Pueru, in April 112 trees from Ōhuiarangi/Pigeon Mountain, and last year a two-year removal of 100 pine trees began on Maungarei/Mt Wellington.
The aims of the city-wide project were to reconnect native ecological networks within and between the 14 maunga and the wider landscape, and also improve the sightlines.
Attendees to the hui are asked to assemble at the main entrance gates to the maunga at the end of Summit Drive, Mt Albert, at 10am on Thursday.