Council approves tree removal for housing development

Last Updated : 15 Jan 2021
Macrocarpa tree 1
The macrocarpa tree at 1817 Great North Road in Avondale that has been approved for removal.

Auckland Council has granted Tree Owner Approval for the removal of a single macrocarpa tree at 1817 Great North Road in Avondale. The decision to allow removal of a notable tree that spans both public and private land has not been taken lightly.

Auckland Council Chief Executive Jim Stabback says the council considered every aspect of the development and the tree’s value in making this decision.

“Removing trees, especially notable trees, is not a decision we take lightly or make often. We are lead by a robust tree owner approval process and the principles of our Urban Ngahere Strategy and, using this guidance, have weighed up the benefits and impacts of removing this macrocarpa.

“Importantly, a recent independent assessment of the tree has concluded that it requires significant reduction in canopy and trunk to ensure it remains safe.

“On balance, we believe that removing a potentially unsafe tree – and replacing it, over and above the resource consent conditions, with 21 more mature trees across the development site – and with the development contributing 117 residential units to a community crying out for more housing, this is the right decision,” he says.

Further information | Published 8 January 2021

About the development

For more than a year the council’s urban regeneration agency Panuku has been working with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) and the developer on plans for this development in Avondale.

Panuku sold the land (2912m2) to MHUD, who entered into a development agreement with the development partnership of Ockham Residential and Marutūāhu iwi. The development is named Aroha and offers 117 housing units.

Avondale is a priority regeneration area for Panuku and this development meets the council group’s objectives for an ‘unlock’ project.

About the macrocarpa tree

The tree, understood to be approximately 120 plus years old, straddles the development site and public land, known as ‘road reserve’. This is not a park, but a small area of publicly accessible land alongside a local road.

The boundary between the road reserve and the development site runs through the tree, with approximately 60 per cent of the tree on the public side of the boundary.

The tree is listed on the Notable Trees Schedule in the Auckland Unitary Plan. It is in moderate health however it is believed to be beginning to ‘retrench’, as portions of the upper canopy have been progressively reducing in height since 2011.

What is a notable tree?

A notable tree is a tree or group of trees that a community or nation regards as being of special importance. A notable tree has greater legal protection, including that it can't be cut down or removed without an approved resource consent

In Auckland, notable trees are listed in the notable tree schedule in the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Safety issues associated with the tree

Previous arboricultural assessments of the tree have been undertaken visually – a ‘Visual Tree Assessment’ (VTA) is an accepted method of tree management.

On 4 December 2020 a climbing inspection of the tree was carried out by an independent arborist, who identified a crack in one of the tree trunks. Their advice was that this presented a risk and remedial work to address this would involve reduction of the cracked trunk to reduce its weight and minimise the risk of the trunk falling.

As a result, and rather than removing any part of the tree, we have installed bracing around the tree’s branches. Essentially, the bracing provides support to the at-risk branch, in turn preventing the weakened stem from failing to the ground.

This is a temporary measure to reduce the risk of the tree failing and causing harm or injury.

[This section was updated on 15 January 2021.]

Developer consent to remove the tree

In August 2020 the developer applied for resource consent to remove the large macrocarpa tree, in order to progress building of its development on the site. This was granted by an independent hearing commissioner on 16 November 2020.

The developer was notified that tree owner approval would be required through the advice note in the resource consent decision.

Tree owner approval sits with Auckland Council

Under the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009, trees in the road reserve are owned by the council. While anyone can apply for resource consent to carry out an activity on any land, in order to exercise that consent on someone else’s land, they must also obtain the owner’s approval.

On 5 November 2020, the developer applied to Auckland Council for tree owner approval to remove the notable macrocarpa tree at 1817 Great North Road, Avondale.

The application for tree owner approval was accompanied by a number of supporting documents including the resource consent notification decision and arboricultural and other reports associated with the resource consent.

Tree owner approval to remove the tree was granted on 23 December 2020, by Auckland Council Chief Executive Jim Stabback. The developer and key stakeholders were notified of this decision.

The council’s tree owner approval guide is publicly available on our website.

Read the council's decision document here

Public notification and engagement

Although public notification of the resource consent was requested by the Whau Local Board and the Tree Council, the independent hearing commissioner did not consider that the requirements for public notification under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) were met and the consent was processed on a non-notified basis.

Tree Owner Approval is a non-regulatory process with no specific requirement for formal public consultation. However, 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.  

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