The Environment Court has discharged a temporary order protecting a Titirangi kauri tree and refused to grant a permanent order, meaning it can be felled because it is not protected by any planning provisions.
Judge Jeff Smith and commissioner Anne Leijnen said that under the Unitary Plan, this kauri on Paturoa Rd had no protection.
"The plan is very clear that the removal of such trees is a permitted activity," said the decision.
Nor was the tree protected by being in a significant ecological area. Nor was it individually protected under the Unitary Plan, their decision said.
They knew the decision was not what some people wanted.
"We appreciate this decision will be disappointing to the many people who have undertaken a special interest in this tree and the kauri dieback issues which are arising in the Waitakere," the decision said.
But parties who want to protect the tree can still continue court action.
"We have concluded that a short period should be allowed before the interim order expires in the event that the parties wish to seek further injunctions in the High Court," the decision says.
Local residents said they were "gutted". The centuries-old kauri called Awhiawhi by local iwi "became the focus of an outpouring of community support in 2015. There was a petition to Auckland Council of over 26,000, visits to the tree by local politicians including then Mayoral candidate Phil Goff and prolonged occupations of the tree, firstly by activist Michael Tavares, and later by arborist Johno Smith," a statement said.
"After an early morning ringbarking attack, while Smith was still in the tree, a rapid court intervention saw the chainsaws put on hold shortly before Christmas 2015. Local residents Andrew Maehl and Winnie Charlesworth have since led a multi-year court battle to save the native from being felled," the statement said.
The decision just released was Andrew Alexander Maehl and Winifred Mary Charlesworth v Robert John Lenihan and Jane Helen Greensmith.
Those wanting the tree protected have till May 24 to respond to the decision.