The Tree Council and the Whau Local Board are delighted to report that 9 of the 11 Monterey Pines of Gittos Domain in the centre of Blockhouse Bay will be retained.
These historic trees are of iconic value to the community and are living reminders of the rapidly disappearing heritage of this part of West Auckland. Their significance was recognised when they were listed on the Schedule of Notable Trees in the District Plan of Auckland for their visual amenity.
Scheduled trees are afforded the highest protection through a lengthy and deliberate process. The general expectation is therefore that any consent application relating to these trees will be publicly notified, so that affected communities get the opportunity to take part in decisions over their future.
This was not the case for the people of Blockhouse Bay. Auckland Council recommended non-notification of the consent application for removal, which meant the public were excluded from engaging with the decision making process, denied the opportunity to influence the management of their own historic heritage and left ignorant of both the process and the final decision.
Through the efforts of a local resident and the Whau Local Board, which had always recommended public notification, questions were raised. The resulting level of public concern and scrutiny halted the process of tree removal.
The resulting pause in the process allowed for a more balanced consideration of all the management options. Council resolutely defended their original decision and various statements were published in local media. However it became clear that professional assessments of the trees did not support the wholesale destruction of all eleven trees, and the consent to remove them has now been withdrawn.
The Tree Council’s spokesperson Suzanne Caron said “The example of the Blockhouse Bay Monterey Pines demonstrates why planning decisions affecting the notable trees in our communities should be open to public scrutiny. It is clear that the best way to avoid unjustifiable and hasty decisions is to ensure that the process of public notification is followed in all scheduled tree resource consent applications.”
“Auckland Council cannot serve the interests of Auckland residents by claiming that recent legislative changes granting increased powers to consenting authorities afford them the right to act at their discretion. Just like other high profile examples of non-notification of resource consents this case proves that this approach risks community alienation and the loss of our valuable heritage trees.”