Tree fight is all go

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS ETHERIDGE

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.

Photo: JESS ETHERIDGE

Join­ing forces: Pa­trick Reynolds and Jolisa Grace­wood with res­i­dents who want to save the po­hutukawa.

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