Earlier this month members of Auckland Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee requested staff investigate a land exchange option to halt the removal of native trees at a private property on Canal Road in Avondale.
This request was in response to public input from ‘The Tree Council’ and local residents who proposed that the council intervene to protect a number of large native trees on the site.
Staff have advised committee members that there is no blanket protection for trees on private property under the Resource Management Act, and that only one tree on the property is protected. The council has also been advised that the properties at 52-58 Canal Road are currently under contract and that the conditions of the sale and purchase agreement are being met.
Councillor Alf Filipaina, chair of the council’s Parks, Arts, Culture and Events Committee, says that council staff were specifically asked to investigate the option of a land exchange, but have advised him that this is not an option at this time.
“Council staff discussed the possibility of exchanging the four private properties with nearby Canal Reserve, but were advised that neither the current landowner nor the purchaser wish to exchange their land for Canal Reserve, which is a smaller piece of land,” explains Councillor Filipaina.
“We cannot force a private landowner to contemplate a land exchange or direct them to consider other options.”
Whau Local Board proposed further investigation into the possible exchange of other open space options but the landowner and purchaser expressed their concern with the timeframes and public consultation processes that would be required under the Reserves Act 1977, noting these concerns would also apply to all possible land exchange options.
Whau Local Board Chair Kay Thomas says the local board is disappointed that there wasn’t a clear path available to it to help preserve this urban natural heritage site.
“We share the disappointment with the members of our community. That such mature native trees face destruction highlights the lack of protection available for trees on private property and the limited opportunity for intervention local government has,” said Ms Thomas.
“As members of Whau Local Board we urge our local Members of Parliament to reinstate tree protection to ensure that no community is faced with a situation similar to that we have on Canal Road.”
Councillor Richard Hills, chair of the council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee, agrees.
“We opposed the removal of blanket tree protection for Auckland and have now twice written to the Minister for the Environment asking for protection for our precious native trees to be reinstated. I thank the community for their advocacy for these trees and the urban ngahere across Tāmaki Makaurau,” says Councillor Hillls.
Are the trees protected?
There are currently no rules protecting trees on the site other than a protected pohutukawa tree. This is because the land at 52-58 Canal Road is privately owned and the council does not have a legal authority to intervene. The landowner is able to exercise their private property rights but does have a legal obligation to preserve the protected pohutukawa.
Concerns have also been raised about the removal of trees that may be located on the council berm in front of the properties, but this would not be permitted without written approval from the council.
 The PACE Committee has responsibility for sport and recreation, including parks and reserves and has the delegation for acquisition of property relating to that committee’s activities including the acquisition of land as part of a land exchange under the Reserves Act 1977.