Na­tive tree own­ers shocked at plan

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

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.

Photo: FAIRFAX NZ

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