Tree fight is all go
RESIDENTS are prepared to fight for the six Western Springs pohutukawa trees scheduled to be removed to make way for the St Lukes motorway interchange project – all the way to the Environment Court.
Supporters are still holding out hope of a last-minute reprieve.
Auckland Transport will today decide whether to accept or decline the commissioner’s recommendation to remove the trees. There is then a 15-working day appeal period.
The saga will be discussed in an Auckland Transport meeting on Friday at the HSBC tower on Queen St.
Many requests to speak publicly at the meeting have been made but Auckland Transport says just two speakers will be allowed.
Those spots will go to Waitemata Local Board and a Pohutukawa Savers representative who will speak on behalf of submitters, residents, the Tree Council and mana whenua. Pt Chevalier resident Jolisa Gracewood says residents are prepared to take the case to the Environment Court to hold Auckland Transport publicly accountable.
Seven options to widen the stretch of road the trees are on have been considered. Auckland Transport supports the one which removes the trees to cater for extra lanes for multiple transport modes.
But Grey Lynn resident Patrick Reynolds say the trees should be retained because Auckland Transport’s ‘‘proposed plan meets only narrow transport objectives, offers inadequate provision for walking, cycling, and public transport, and fails on social and environmental grounds’’.
It was revealed at a public hearing in November that 54 submissions were discounted due to a technical error.
Just 12 submissions were ultimately counted.
An online petition to save the trees has gathered almost 1500 signatures and AT says it will not make its final decision until the appeal process ends.
‘‘We can’t second-guess the decision but, if we were to decide to proceed, we could not take any action until the end of the appeal process.
‘‘Any appeals will be to the Environment Court and of course we can’t tell how long that process will take,’’ an Auckland Transport spokesman says.
Ngati Whatua Orakei has also joined the fight with deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair questioning Auckland Transport’s consultation process.
Five of the six pohutukawa are believed to be 80 years old and sit between the Northwestern Motorway and Great North Rd in St Lukes. The sixth tree is believed to be about 20 years old.
Residents and lobbyists have been vocal in their opposition since Auckland Transport revealed its intentions to remove the trees in June 2014.
Signs reading ‘‘Save us’’ and ‘‘Auckland Transport wants to kill us’’ have been wrapped around each tree since Christmas. Supporters ‘‘yarn-bombed’’ the pohutukawa by wrapping knitted blankets around the trunks.
Joining forces: Patrick Reynolds and Jolisa Gracewood with residents who want to save the pohutukawa.