'Rogue' tree protester halts felling on housing development site

Author
Miriam Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 5:05PM
A protester at the intersection of Ash St and Great North Rd, Auckland, where Ockham Developments is planning to fell an old macrocarpa tree Photo / Hayden Woodward
A protester at the intersection of Ash St and Great North Rd, Auckland, where Ockham Developments is planning to fell an old macrocarpa tree Photo / Hayden Woodward

'Rogue' tree protester halts felling on housing development site

Author
Miriam Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 5:05PM

One "rogue" protester clinging to a 120-year-old macrocarpa tree on an Auckland housing development site remains the final barrier before its removal.

Protest group Mana Rākau has surrendered, now saying

the tree's removal is the only way the Ockham and Marutūāhu Collective development of 117 units in Avondale can go ahead.

Several protesters who occupied the tree last month now believe keeping the tree in place would costs all parties tens of thousands of dollars and put families who purchased apartments under stress.

But Ockham said a remaining 18-year-old who has been in the tree on the corner of Ash St and Great North Rd since Tuesday is refusing to come down, halting operations.

Founder and managing director Mark Todd said a crane is on site and the tree is "definitely getting felled in the immediate future – if not today, then tomorrow."

Protesters at the Ockham Developments site. Photo / Hayden WoodwardProtesters at the Ockham Developments site. Photo / Hayden Woodward

Arborist Zane Wedding, who had been leading the protests, said they have not been in vain.

"I would love to see this tree remain, but we came to realise that it was no longer actually ever going to happen."

A police officer at the protest. Photo / Hayden Woodward

Wedding said they are instead focusing on the fight for blanket tree protection across Tamaki Makarau.

He hopes at least 13 trees on a list of 587 will be granted protection.

"It allows us to save other trees in Avondale and shine the light on Auckland Council's inability to protect trees," he said.

"Some that are unprotected are precious taonga and I can't understand why the Council won't step up to the plate."

Protesters at the Ockham Developments site. Photo / Hayden Woodward

Todd is publicly backing the call for general urban tree protection policy to be resurrected.

"The Council needs to pull its socks up and pay for 500 trees that are waiting to be scheduled, it's the only protection they can have in current [Resource Management Act] RMA environment."

But he is defending Ockham's decision to fell the Avondale macrocarpa.

"We feel very comfortable with the process this tree went through.

"We've got to balance the high-density apartment zone - two blocks from train station - and this ageing macrocarpa with a four-metre crack down the middle, near the ends of its life."

Protests have not delayed construction of the units, which is due to start later this month, Todd said.

Auckland Council has been approached for comment.

In a December statement on the issue, the Council said "when assessing this request for tree owner approval, the views of those likely to be interested in or affected by the decision were carefully considered and taken into account. This included views provided by community groups and iwi. "