11 Nov 2019

Protesters attempt to block removal of trees on Ōwairaka-Mt Albert

4:35 pm on 11 November 2019

Protesters attempting to stop the felling of exotic trees on Ōwairaka-Mt Albert in Auckland say they plan to stay at the site round the clock.

30 people have gathered to block the entrance to Mt Albert in an effort to save trees.

30 people have gathered to block the entrance to Mt Albert in an effort to save trees. Photo: NZ Herald / Jason Oxenham

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority is planning to cut down the trees from today as part of a programme to restore native vegetation and wildlife to the maunga.

The Authority said 345 exotics, including olive and monkey apple trees, would be felled over the next month.

Mt Albert resident Anna Radford, spokesperson for Honour the Maunga community group, said all trees supported native wildlife and the mature exotics should be left until the native trees planted there were bigger.

Ms Radford said over the course of the morning about 100 people had come and gone from the site and tree-felling contractors had left. A smaller group was staying at the entrance.

"We're organising rosters to make sure that people are here 24/7 because we are committed to preventing the felling of 345 exotic trees on Mt Albert, but also we want to stop this madness on Auckland's maunga.

"This has already happened on some other mountains and is going to be happening on other places."

Ms Radford said residents were not consulted and the first anyone in the community knew about it was a "limited letterbox drop" and a councillor's Facebook posting late October.

However, Tūpuna Maunga Authority chairman Paul Majurey in a statement said they'd taken several rounds of Auckland-wide public consultation on plans for the ecological restoration of the 14 maunga administered by the Authority, including Ōwairaka / Mt Albert.

He said the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan underwent public consultation from February to May 2016, and the Tūpuna Maunga Authority Integrated Management Plan Strategies underwent public consultation in July and August 2019.

In an earlier statement in October, Mr Majurey said restoring and enhancing the original features of the maunga where possible was important.

"The starting point for the Authority is our commitment to honouring the maunga as some of Auckland's oldest and most important natural, cultural and archaeological landmarks," he said.

"In the biodiversity stream of the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan a priority goal is restoring and reconnecting native ecological networks within and between the maunga and the wider landscape," the statement said. "Proactive management of exotic plant species and reintroducing indigenous flora and fauna is a vital step towards that outcome."

The first phase restoration was completed in August with the planting of 2700 native shrubs.

Plans for vegetation on Ōwairaka-Mt Albert

Plans for vegetation on Ōwairaka-Mt Albert. Photo: Tūpuna Maunga Authority