11 Dec 2015

Kauri protester plans to sleep in tree

7:51 pm on 11 December 2015

A climber who has scaled a large kauri in Titirangi in an attempt to stop it being cut down plans to sleep in the tree.

Local arborist Jonno Smith scaled the kauri to try to stop it being felled.

Local arborist Johno Smith has climbed the kauri to try to stop it being felled. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The tree was the subject of protest action and a sit-in early this year before it was granted a reprieve by Titirangi property owners who had wanted it cut down.

But yesterday contractors arrived on site with chainsaws to fell the tree.

Local protesters managed to convince them to stop, and this morning arborist Johno Smith climbed the tree in an effort to stop it being felled.

The tree was a "beautiful specimen", he said.

"I'm really not concerned about my safety...I'm well skilled on rope and have all my systems set now, and also have sleeping arrangements, food, water and a good support team."

Mr Smith admitted he had not yet worked out toilet facilities.

He was not worried about his safety, because he had worked in the arboricultural industry for 14 years and knew no contractor would cut down the tree while he was in it.

Earlier this year Mr Smith took part in a Greenpeace protest by scaling Parliament.

A council-appointed mediator brought in to help discussions between the property owners, John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, and campaigners, said the owners did have a valid resource consent.

Auckland Council has granted resource consents to build two houses on adjoining sites and remove the tree.

Janet Clews said she had been unable to get both parties into one room to reach an agreement.

"I'd like to get them together in some form but I don't think know that is going to be likely after what has happened in the last two days.

"I don't believe that there would be any other resource consent that has been issued in the country that has had so much scrutiny as this one has, and I certainly don't recall having the sort of resistance to someone trying to carry out what they're allowed to do - and this is the dilemma.

"I think it's a really sad state of affairs."

In March, after a vocal campaign and a four day sit-in up the tree by activist Michael Tavares, the property owners gave an assurance the kauri was safe.

In an open letter, they would let the kauri, and a second mature tree, a rimu, remain on the Titirangi property.

Tree climber Michael Tavares who climbed a 500-year-old West Auckland kauri tree in a bid to save it from being felled

Earlier this year Michael Tavares spent four days in the kauri tree in a campaign to ensure it would not be cut down. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

But they also said in the letter they wanted to hand the responsibility to others including the council, to buy the land and compensate them.

The open letter canvassed what the owners said were complex and contradictory rules governing building in their part of Auckland - but said they had a plan to keep the trees.

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