Auckland Council 'disrespectful' over felling pines

These pines at Western Springs are set for the chop. Photo: NZ Herald
These pines at Western Springs are set for the chop. Photo: NZ Herald

Vaughan Clutterbuck has no problem with the removal of pine trees at Western Springs. It’s the “disrespectful” way Auckland Council is going about felling the trees that annoys him.

“This is a total sanctuary,” says Clutterbuck, whose home in West View Rd looks through the stagnating and dying pines to Western Springs lake and several prominent volcanic cones in the distance.

The council has been horrible neighbours to deal with, says the painting contractor, who was keeping an eye out this morning for work to begin on removing 13 trees considered to be at immediate risk of falling.

Workers from Treescape, the contractors employed by the council to fell the trees, and senior council arborist David Stejskal, were outside Western Springs Stadium this morning, but there was no sign of work starting.

“The destruction of 70 percent of this regenerating native bush would be a travesty in my mind merely to remove 200 trees,” said Clutterbuck, who is one of many people concerned with plans by the council to clearfell all the remaining pine trees in a 3.2ha block behind Western Springs lake.

The plan, supported by the Waitemata Local Board, is to remove the pines and replant thousands of native trees on the hillside.

Planning commissioners have asked the council to answer questions about the application to clearfell the trees and build a road and a large processing area. In the meantime the council is removing the 13 pine trees under an emergency provision in the Unitary Plan.

Residents and Waitemata councillor Mike Lee have accused council of flouting its own resource consent process by removing the 13 pines while seeking consent to remove all 200 pines.

Clutterbuck said council has obfuscated all along about its plans and not been upfront with neighbours about the size of the road, which would require a cut of up to 8m into the hillside, and other matters.

“The way they have gone about it has been extremely disrespectful,” said Clutterbuck, who believes the best way to remove the trees would be to remove them in groups of about 20 each year.

Protesters, including members of Greenpeace, Forest & Bird and Occupy Garnet Rd are planning to occupy the back sections of three houses in West View Rd where Auckland Council has asked residents to evacuate for safety reasons while the trees are removed.

Today, Occupy Garnet Rd stalwart Lisa Prager and Wendy Gray, who has gathered 755 signatures on a petition asking the council to drop the clearfelling and to manage the forest by “surgical removal of only trees predisposed to failure”, had set up in the backyard of one of the three closed hoses closest to the works.

“We are outraged the council is attempting to cut down this stand of 13 Monterey pines, not because we love pines, but because there is a significant ecological area underneath them. There is regenerating bush at least 50 years old with an entire ecosystem that needs to be protected,” Prager said.

In a letter circulated to affected residents on Monday night, the council said the work is taking place under WorkSafe tree felling rules which requires people to vacate their homes.

The council said it would be flexible about people coming and going from their homes - it takes between 20 and 60 minutes to remove each tree - but said work on trees that risk falling on neighbouring properties will not take place while the properties are occupied.

The council’s acting head of operations Simon Randall said on Monday he understood the concerns of residents and work would be delayed for 24 hours to talk with affected residents,

Due to the seriousness of the risk, Randall said, the 13 dead and dying trees will be felled under the emergency provisions of the Unitary Plan. This did not circumvent the separate resource consent application to clearfell all 200 remaining pine trees in a 3.2ha block behind Western Springs lake, he said.

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