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Protecting Auckland's heritage trees

Published: 18 October 2018

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Keeping Tāmaki Makaurau's heritage trees safe.

Heritage arborists West Fynn and Nick Stott help to keep Tāmaki Makaurau's protected trees safe. The tree doctors give advice to property owners on pruning and working around trees, advise the resource consents team on planning applications that could adversely affect heritage trees, and urge developers and builders to ‘check before they chop.’ 

We caught up with West in Williams Road, Hobsonville, looking over what is reputedly the world’s largest rose apple tree, where he was talking to property owner Hazel, who proudly describes herself as custodian of the sprawling, protected tree for over 40 years.

Local legend says the tree was planted by Governor William Hobson, after whom Hobsonville was named.

Hazel: “The tree is supposed to be over 160 years old and its special to me even though we don’t know for sure whether Hobson planted it.

“There’s too many trees being damaged or destroyed and I’m happy to look after this one. It certainly catches people’s attention as they pass by.”

West: “As we become a more intensified city for a rapidly growing population we often see trees being cleared for housing.

“The loss of trees is adding to climate change causing heatwaves, storms, and erosion – it’s a global environmental problem and we have to protect ourselves against that.”  

Checking plans indicating where people want to build near listed trees is often a challenge, sometimes requiring unpopular advice and tough decisions by the arborists. But in the long run, the right outcome will ensure both tree and house will benefit and last longer, say Nick and West.

Nick: “It is great Auckland is planting a million trees but on average new trees take years before they can absorb useful amounts of air pollutants and provide oxygen.

“That’s why it’s essential we protect our older trees to help stabilise the environment.”

Keeping an eye on several thousand trees is a full-time job for West and Nick. But help is on the way with the development of a council online app which, among other things, will pinpoint the location of notable trees and record their history and health.

There are nearly 3000 line items listed in the Auckland Unitary Plan’s Schedule of Notable Trees. As well as individual trees, they include groups or groves of trees in special sites.

Read more: Environment Heritage

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