LAW CHANGES TO BLAME FOR KAURI THREAT
Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association Chair Dr Mels Barton says that the furore over a kauri tree in Titirangi is a direct result of the changes made to the Resource Management Act (RMA) by the National Government.
“The “simplifying and streamlining” of the RMA has taken away the rights of communities to have any say on consents applied for in their local area” she said.
“Virtually no consents are notified these days and 99% are granted non-notified, as in the case of Paturoa Rd Titirangi, so no one can make submissions or appeal the decision. This cuts everyone out of the process and leads to bad decision making as in this case”.
The Tree Council Chair Sean Freeman agrees.
“People think that trees should be protected because they are in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area, but in fact the Heritage Area Act does not include any provisions for tree protection, it merely prevents further subdivision occurring in the area” he said.
“Despite the fact that this tree on Paturoa Rd has protection by being within a Significant Ecological Area (SEA) as identified by Auckland Council to protect the bush environment of Titirangi and elsewhere, the existing development rights for sections allowed for in the RMA override this protection and so there is no legal way to protect the tree” he said.
Both the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society and Titirangi R&R Association explored ways to protect this bush section almost a year ago working with the neighbours but despite getting Council to request clarification on the decision not to notify the consent the independent commissioner stood by his decision and consent was granted non-notified.
“There was nothing anyone could do at that point” said Mels. “If someone had nominated the larger trees on the section for individual scheduling when Council was calling for public nominations a few years ago then we all could have made submissions on the consents that would have been required to remove these specific trees, but no one did, so they have no protection as everyone is entitled to build a house on an undeveloped section and clear a building platform.”
Sean Freeman agrees “it is a powerful lesson for everyone in urban areas about how little protection any trees have now since the Government has prevented councils from protecting anything other than individual specimens by scheduling them. If there are significant trees around you then it is safe to assume they are not protected, wherever you live, and you should nominate them to be scheduled. It is their only chance in the current political climate”.
The Tree Council supports individuals wanting to nominate trees for scheduling and goes to court to fight consents for scheduled tree removal across the whole of Auckland on a daily basis. Anyone wanting to know more should contact The Tree Council at www.thetreecouncil.org.nz