Saving 100 year old native trees in Canal Road Avondale

From Afternoons, 1:15 pm on 7 September 2020

An arborist who's been occupying a tree in West Auckland for the past two weeks is urging Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to purchase the property and save a group of trees at risk of being cut down.

Canal Road

Canal Road Photo: Ken Sparks

For 61 days protesters have gathered at a property in the Auckland suburb of Avondale in a bid to save the trees, including some 100-year-old natives.

Zane Wedding is one of the many arborists who've joined the movement to stop the trees being felled. 

He spoke to Jesse Mulligan while "swinging in the wind", suspended on one of the trees which has already been attempted to be cut down.

"These trees on Canal Rd, on this small section, are some of the most diverse range of native trees that you will find in Auckland city. I would have to actually say that it is the most diverse range of native trees in the city," Wedding said. 

"And since tree protection went away in 2012, basically one in every three trees has been removed and at this site, there are some really precious, rare trees, which for arborists, we've just got to a point where enough is enough and we have to make a stand and we have to put a stop to this." 

General tree protection was scrapped in changes to the Resource Management Act in 2012, something which Wedding said had resulted in the loss of one of three trees in Auckland. 

This specific property has a range of trees, including black maire, manoao, pōhutukawa, tōtara and pūriri and a kawaka which another arborist has been occupying for the past 20 days.

It's the last and biggest of its kind in Auckland, he said.

"So when this tree goes away there will be none left. It will never be replaced. You'd have to go to the South Island to see one of this stature. So it's really important for people to understand why we're here fighting for these really specifically rare trees." 

The property has been sold on the condition the trees are removed, Wedding said. 

Protesters have been at the property since early July, and several have already been arrested. Wedding said he expects the police will come for him, but that wouldn't deter him from staying put. 

"I don't want to be doing what I'm doing. I feel incredibly sorry for the landowners," he said.

"This is where we need the council to step up and purchase something which is incredibly valuable. If you were buying this land for the tree value, you would be getting it at an amazing price."

Auckland Council said staff had been asked if a land exchange was possible, but it wasn't an option at this time.

The council's Parks, Arts, Culture and Events Committee chairperson, councillor Alf Filipaina, has previously said the council cannot force a private landowner to contemplate a land exchange or direct them to consider other options.

“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,” Filipaina said.