Auck­land’s leafy fu­ture in doubt

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - TOM CARNEGIE

‘‘The ques­tion is, when the cur­rent no­table trees die, what will re­place them?’’

The idea that Auck­land has a lush ur­ban for­est with thou­sands of iconic trees could one day wither.

Ar­borist Sean Free­man says young trees in Auck­land, that could one day be­come no­table, have lit­tle pro­tec­tion from the axe fol­low­ing changes to the law in Septem­ber 2015.

The changes came through amend­ments to the Re­source Man­age­ment Act (RMA) which lifted the blan­ket tree pro­tec­tion in ur­ban ar­eas.

For a tree to now have pro­tec­tion it must be within a re­serve, a des­ig­nated spe­cial eco­log­i­cal area, a ri­par­ian buf­fer or a coastal strip.

Pro­tec­tion of in­di­vid­ual trees is now only avail­able through sched­ul­ing un­der the rec­om­mended Uni­tary Plan.

But Free­man says the bar to be sched­uled is so high it is ef­fec­tively ex­clud­ing any new younger trees.

‘‘The ques­tion is, when the cur­rent no­table trees die, what will re­place them?’’

A nom­i­nated tree must meet a range of cri­te­ria to be in­cluded on the sched­ule. This in­cludes her­itage, sci­en­tific and cul­tural value.

The Tree Coun­cil, which Free­man chairs, made a joint sub­mis­sion with Royal For­est & Bird and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence So­ci­ety to the Uni­tary Plan Hear­ings Panel. The three so­ci­eties pro­posed a sec- ond tier of sched­ul­ing for fu­ture no­table trees to be in­cluded in the Uni­tary Plan.

‘‘This sec­ond tier would not mean the trees had out­right pro­tec­tion, it would have just cre­ated a plan­ning pause to as­sess the tree.’’

The sec­ond tier pro­posal has not been in­cluded in the rec­om­mended Uni­tary Plan.

‘‘The Uni­tary Plan was never go­ing to be able to re­v­erse the RMA changes and as such we had no il­lu­sions over just what the new plan­ning scheme might cover.

‘‘But we will now watch our her­itage trees de­cline and die as they age with no means to pro­tect their younger re­place­ments.’’

There are cur­rently more than 6000 sched­uled trees and groups of trees in Auck­land.

De­spite the vast ma­jor­ity of trees not be­ing pro­tected Auck­land Coun­cil ad­vises peo­ple still check be­fore they chop.

Call the coun­cil on 301 0101 to check the sta­tus of a tree or go to auck­land­coun­ and search ‘‘tree rules’’ for more in­for­ma­tion.

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