A plan by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) to replace exotic trees with native plantings at Ōwairaka/Mt Albert can proceed after a legal attempt to stop the exotic trees being toppled failed.
The High Court today declined a judicial review brought by Auckland residents Averil Rosemary Norman and Warwick Bruce Norman alleging the authority's decision was made without proper planning or consultation.
The court declined to make any of the orders sought by the Normans. It found the authority acted lawfully and Auckland Council acted lawfully when granting consent to remove the trees on a non-notified basis.
TMA chairman Paul Majurey welcomed the judgment, saying the authority remains committed to removing 345 exotics trees as part of a native restoration programme to plant 13,000 native trees and shrubs at Ōwairaka/Mt Albert.
The TMA, which co-governs the city's 14 tūpuna maunga (ancestral mountains), in October last year unveiled the long-term project which involves removing the exotic trees and planting 13,000 natives, along with restoring cultural values.
In their submission, the Normans stated they opposed logging of the trees all at once, and said there was no consultation with the public on the decision, and no documents even recording the decision to clear the trees from the maunga.
They also disputed the reasoning for the resource consent to be granted on a non-notified basis.
Majurey today said he is pleased the court recognised the Reserves Act legislation must be read in the context of the Treaty settlement.
He also embraced the court's view that the Treaty settlement legislation established the TMA to govern the Tūpuna Maunga while providing for the exercise of mana whenua and kaitiakitanga by the mana whenua of Tāmaki Makaurau.
"The Authority is pleased with the court's finding that the cultural, spiritual and ecological restoration of Ōwairaka / Mount Albert is a project that includes both the removal of exotic trees and restoration replanting," Majurey said.
The Norman's lawyer, Bob Hollyman, QC, said the couple are disappointed at the decision and considering an appeal.
He said the key issue for the Normans, who are not part of the protest group camped at the maunga for the past year, is the failure to consult the public properly.
Hollyman said the court decision has ramifications for the other maunga because it means the TMA could theoretically go ahead and cut down non-native trees.
In a statement, Honour the Maunga protest group said the court decision now means the TMA are now free to fell trees at any time.
The group said it did not initiate the judicial review and is not bound by its decision and will continue to honour the maunga and prevent the needless destruction of 345 trees.
"Even though the decision has gone Tūpuna Maunga Authority and Auckland Council's way, we would note that just because they now can destroy around 2500 exotic trees from Auckland's maunga, it doesn't mean that they should," the group said.