Battle over historic tree
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.