Tree saga rolls on

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE and ADAM DUD­DING

THE fight to save six po­hutukawa, un­der threat by a $70 mil­lion road project, may be far from over.

A tech­ni­cal er­ror has seen 54 sub­mis­sions ruled out in the con­tentious St Lukes in­ter­change saga.

The wrong num­ber was writ­ten on the sub­mis­sions. But four with­out a num­ber on them were in­cluded.

It means the 54 in­di­vid­u­als and groups who took part have been shut out of any decision on the trees’ fu­ture.

Those lead­ing the charge say they will con­sider their op­tions if the 80-year-old trees look set to be re­moved.

Pt Che­va­lier’s Jolisa Grace­wood says res­i­dents sub­mit­ted in good faith. She says it was poor form and ‘‘to only tell us the day of the hear­ing . . . [it’s] re­ally a blow for democ­racy, such as it ex­ists in cases like this’’.

Rhys Jones, of Mt Al­bert, says the sub­mis­sions were clearly about the po­hutukawa de­spite the er­ror. He says it is un­fair and will dis­cour­age peo­ple from get­ting into com­mu­nity decision-mak­ing.

Tree Coun­cil chair­man Sean Free­man says the group op­poses the re­moval.

The Tree Coun­cil’s sub­mis­sion was one of the 54 ruled out but Free­man’s ex­pert ev­i­dence, as an ar­borist, was ac­cepted at the hear­ing.

The $70m mo­tor­way in­ter­change up­grade in­cludes a new left-turn­ing lane, so Auck­land Trans­port and NZTA say the trees must go.

Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board op­poses the re­moval.

The board brought a lawyer to the hear­ing last week.

David Mitchell of le­gal firm Mered­ith Con­nell tabled a state­ment on be­half of the board, con­demn­ing Auck­land Trans­port.

The New Zealand Trans­port Agency, with Auck­land Trans­port, plans an up­grade to the St Lukes Road Bridge which could see six po­hutukawa trees re­moved and re­placed.

The move would be part of the SH16 St Lukes to Great North Rd In­ter­change up­grade.

The dead­line for sub­mis­sions was July 4.

Waitem­ata chair­man Shale Cham­bers says the trees were planted in 1934, based on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence.

Hear­ing chair­woman Leigh McGregor told Cham­bers hard ev­i­dence of the trees’ age was needed.

McGregor says the panel is re­quired by law to dis­count the sub­mis­sions which have the wrong num­ber.

Cham­bers says 98 per cent of sub­mit­ters op­pose the tree re­moval.

Grey Lynn’s Pa­trick Reynolds says the po­hutukawa do a ser­vice of stor­ing car­bon ‘‘ and pro­duc­ing oxy­gen and shade and beauty and de­light’’.

‘‘They flower won­der­fully at Christ­mas, and you can even see that from your car.’’

The cur­rent St Lukes pro­posal catered for an ad­di­tional left-hand turn on to St Lukes Rd Bridge, to han­dle the pre­dicted change of traf­fic when the Water­view tun­nels open in early 2017.

Auck­land Trans­port did not re­spond to Auck­land City Har­bour’s ques­tions but has un­til next week to re­spond to the hear­ing panel.


Sway­ing opin­ion: Pa­trick Reynolds is fight­ing to save the six po­hutukawa trees on Great North Rd.

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