Tree saga rolls on
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.