Auckland Council weighing up options for re-protecting century-old pōhutukawa

7:30 pm on 2 May 2021

By Carmina Blewett

Auckland Council is considering what can be done to secure the safety of an unprotected Mount Eden tree.

Auckland Council admitted human error likely resulted in the pohutukawa being left off the list.

Auckland Council admitted human error likely resulted in the pōhutukawa being left off the list. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

On Thursday, the governing body addressed the century-old pōhutukawa which was previously protected under the District Plan.

The tree at risk lost its status due to a clerical error during the Unitary Plan's introduction.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said while reversing the error would likely incur costs, the "magnificent" pōhutukawa should be left alone.

"It's equally my view that you cannot allow a tree of this heritage nature - that we've already scheduled once - to be destroyed inadvertently. That is not an option from my point of view ... That view is shared by others around this table," Goff said.

The options explored by council include applying for an injunction to prevent the tree's removal; a plan change with immediate legal effect; a Resource Management Act Section 292 application; and a plan change which will either protect trees forgotten on the scheduled list, or protect selected trees considered "non-controversial".

Over 1000 signatures back an ongoing petition demanding the mistake is fixed.

Tree Council board member and landscape architect Mark Lockhart previously told RNZ he was frustrated the error would leave the pōhutukawa at risk of being felled.

"If they removed this tree, it's an incredibly negative thing to do to a community. I can't think of any other trees in Mount Eden that are bigger than this tree, and this tree is exceptional. I've spoken to arborists about it. This tree has an amazing form. There's very little dead wood in it. It's incredibly healthy and to add to that, it sits on this natural volcanic outcrop."

Lockhart started a petition to urge the council to reinstate safeguards for the tree after it lost its protected status.

The risk of the 100-year-old landmark - a community icon - being removed was unreasonable, he said.

Changes to the Resource Management Act largely removed blanket tree protection over five years ago.

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