Media release: for immediate release Tuesday 15 November 2022
The Tree Council is angry and disappointed that the Labour Government has failed to deliver any improvement in the protection of urban trees in its draft legislation to replace the Resource Management Act, which had its first reading in Parliament today.
The draft Natural and Built Environments Bill does not contain any provisions that increase the level of urban tree protection from the pitiful state the National Party left it following their gutting of the RMA in 2012.
Minister David Parker stated prior to the last general election in 2020 that “Labour will consider how councils can most appropriately and effectively protect significant urban trees and tree cover.” But, in contrast to their promises, the Labour Government has totally ignored the unprecedented number of submissions* made to the Environment Select Committee on this issue and the calls from councils around the country to give them the ability to better protect trees on private land in order to better manage the future environment of our cities.
This failure to protect the urban forest will result in the continued loss of canopy cover in all Aotearoa’s cities at an accelerating rate, when combined with the housing intensification legislation passed earlier this year. Aotearoa’s largest city Auckland currently only has 18% canopy cover, when the recognised international standard is 30%, and this 18% will continue to decline as urban intensification increases with no protection for trees on private land.
The outcome will be hotter cities with more flooding, more air pollution, more crime, more frequent roading infrastructure renewals and unhealthier and unhappier people. Mature trees provide (for free) services and benefits to counter all these negative effects – as well as storing carbon and turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is a shame the Labour Government does not value these sufficiently to protect the natural assets that provide these services to our cities for future generations.
The Tree Council’s Chair Sean Freeman says “Minister Parker and the Labour Government has failed to fulfil their past promises, failed the public, failed Aotearoa’s urban forests, failed our local councils and failed future generations who will have to live in hot, unhealthy cities. It is a sad legacy to impose on our country when the opportunity exists now to create quality urban living for everyone and counter the worst effects of climate change with the assets we already have. Future generations will judge the missed opportunity harshly”.
“The Labour Government will be remembered for “blindly” prioritising affordable housing at the expense of liveable communities. While it was a National / ACT Government that took away the ability for councils to have blanket tree protection, the Labour Government has squandered their opportunity to correct this legislation with some appropriate form of urban tree protection. While other countries are leading the way by demonstrating that our existing urban ngahere and housing are not mutually exclusive, this Labour Government is lagging well behind and, in doing so, ignoring the well-being of the inhabitants of our cities.”
The Tree Council will be calling on the public to make submissions on the draft legislation. Sign up for our newsletter at www.thetreecouncil.org.nz to be kept updated.
*In a period of 10 days in August 2021 the Stop the Chop website www.stopthechop.co.nz collected and sent 2,348 individual submissions from all over the country to the Environment Select Committee supporting The Tree Council and NZ Arboricultural Association’s joint submission, and explaining why protection of trees on private land in urban areas is a priority for inclusion in the proposed Natural and Built Environments Bill.