Native tree owners shocked at plan
Homeowners are threatening to rip out native trees on their properties instead of paying $655 to trim them if a proposed policy is adopted by Porirua City Council.
In November, 1300 residents across Porirua with ‘‘significant’’ native bush on their properties received letters from the council asking for feedback on a proposed update to the city’s district plan.
Under the draft rules, trimming or removing native trees more than four metres from a house, two metres from a road or 0.5 metres from a driveway, would require a $655 resource consent application, even if the tree is dead or dying.
The proposal is a draconian turnaround from earlier council consultation with residents, says councillor Tim Sheppard, who chairs a district plan review subcommittee.
While Mr Sheppard shares the council’s desire to protect native bush, he believes this ‘‘ controlling’’ and ‘‘ heavyhanded’’ approach does not address the real risk to bush, which is subdivision not residential landscaping.
‘‘Aren’t we using a sledgehammer to crack a nut here?’’ he says.
Dozens of residents have contacted Mr Sheppard with their concerns, many pointing out that they planted the native trees on their properties, which were previously bare former farmland.
Several residents told him they would have to rip out their native plants as they couldn’t afford the fee to maintain them.
Mr Sheppard questions the timing and legality of the move, saying central government is making moves this year to ensure only specifically listed trees on private land can be protected by councils.
‘‘ It seems quite likely that PCC could leave itself open to another expensive court battle, so why not wait until there is greater legal certainty?’’
Mayor Nick Leggett is concerned that council planners did not let councillors know about the proposal before informing residents – he first heard of the proposed changes when he received the November letter as a homeowner.
Council chief executive Gary Simpson says councils are required to protect native bush under the Resource Management Act.
For Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay residents the new rules would be less restrictive than existing ones, which require resource consent to trim any native trees, he says.
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