Bat­tle over his­toric tree

Rodney Times - - FRONT PAGE - JAY BORE­HAM

Res­i­dents work­ing to save a Nor­folk pine they be­lieve has his­toric value will re­ceive no sup­port from Auck­land Coun­cil.

Protest erupted over the re­moval of the tree at Snells Beach, which sits on what will be re­serve land in a 33-home de­vel­op­ment, when con­trac­tors ar­rived to fell it on Au­gust 21.

Res­i­dents blocked con­trac­tors from the tree and called for Auck­land Coun­cil to re­view the con­sent al­low­ing for the tree, they be­lieve may have been planted by James Snell af­ter it was gifted to him by Sir Ge­orge Grey be­tween 1854 and 1870, to be felled.

But coun­cil gen­eral man­ager of re­source con­sent­ing Ian Small­burn said the tree is not sched­uled un­der the Auck­land Uni­tary Plan, and wasn’t un­der the pre­vi­ous Rod­ney District Plan.

The tree was also not nom­i­nated when a plan change to amend the sched­ule of sig­nif­i­cant trees was un­der­taken in 2010.

‘‘There was ei­ther no re­quest for this tree to be con­sid­ered for pro­tec­tion or it was not iden­ti­fied as sig­nif­i­cant enough to war­rant pro­tec­tion.

‘‘We do not be­lieve that the ap­pli­ca­tion con­tained in­ac­cu­ra­cies that were ma­te­rial to the de­ci­sion to ap­prove con­sent,’’ Small­burn said.

Only the con­sent holder, Vava­sour In­vest­ments, is able to put the re­moval of the tree on hold, he said.

But New Zealand Tree Coun­cil chair­man Sean Free­man has ques­tioned the con­sent process and called for a re­view to main­tain pub­lic con­fi­dence in the process.

In par­tic­u­lar, Free­man ques­tioned the key con­sid­er­a­tion of the propen­sity of large ma­ture Nor­folk Pine trees to drop sub­stan­tial lit­ter in­clud­ing branches which could be dan­ger­ous for pub­lic safety.

‘‘That is not a rea­son to cut down a healthy, much loved her­itage Nor­folk pine,’’ Free­man said. ‘‘Nearly all large trees have a propen­sity to drop sub­stan­tial lit­ter in­clud­ing branches.’’

Rod­ney Lo­cal Board chair­woman Beth Houl­brooke is also con­cerned about the process which de­cided the tree’s fate, af­ter Auck­land

Coun­cil failed to in­form the board of the ap­pli­ca­tion prior to the de­ci­sion to make it non-no­ti­fied.

‘‘We have been given an apol­ogy and told it was an over­sight.’’

She ques­tioned why it had oc­curred over the tree on what has be­come a con­tentious de­vel­op­ment within the com­mu­nity.

‘‘It is re­ally con­cern­ing and we have been as­sured it won’t hap­pen again, but you have to won­der,’’ she said.

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