Media release: for immediate release 20 November 2022
The Tree Council welcomes the Labour Government’s announcement that they plan to re-introduce controls to enable local councils to better protect urban trees in the National Planning Framework as part of the Natural and Built Environments Act.
We are glad to see that the Government recognises that restricting councils to having to individually list trees for protection in a schedule is inadequate to deliver the outcomes required in having a healthy urban forest in our future cities.
However, the proposal has two major flaws which need to be addressed if the draft legislation is to deliver these outcomes before we lose the remaining mature trees on private land, given the speed with which tree removal is accelerating with the intensification now permitted by recent changes to the RMA.
The first issue is the timing for introducing the National Planning Framework (NPF) that will contain the controls requiring councils to protect trees of specified quality, to implement an urban ngahere (forest) strategy and have targets for percentage canopy cover in our cities. The Government’s announcement has suggested that it could take up to 8 years before these protections are implemented. This is way too long.
The Tree Council and the New Zealand Arboricultural Association estimated in our joint submission* on the exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act that we were currently losing a minimum of 1000 mature trees per week in Auckland alone (not including wholesale land clearances). So in 8 years we will have lost another half a million mature trees in Auckland and this is totally unacceptable.
In order to stop this wholesale slaughter there is action that the Government can take now that will make an enormous difference – and that brings us to our second major flaw in the legislation proposed. The draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA) released on Tuesday contains a section (125) that restricts councils from introducing their own controls to protect trees.
It is essential that this section 125 and its restrictions on councils is removed from the NBEA. If this NPF is not introduced before the next election, and Labour loses, not only is there a huge risk that the NPF with its tree protection controls will never be introduced, but also that the only thing remaining will be the section restricting councils from setting their own controls in the NBEA.
This would be an even worse situation for urban trees than the currently woefully inadequate Resource Management Act.
The Tree Council’s Chair Sean Freeman says “if the Government actually wants to achieve the outcomes it has stated about better protection for urban trees then it needs to act positively now to enable local councils to implement their own rules to stop the slaughter.”
“It is far too risky to leave it to chance that Labour will win the next election and at some time in the next 8 years will implement these controls that we need so badly now. By then there will be no urban forest left to protect”.
“The Tree Council calls on the Government to act positively now to enable councils to take short term action to protect trees, not to prevent them from doing so, which will merely guarantee the continued loss of our urban forests”.
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.
Notes:*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 Act.