Open Letter re Removal of Scheduled Pecan Trees at 121 Avondale Road

To: His Worship the Mayor Phil Goff, CEO Stephen Town

cc: Chris Darby, Chair Planning Committee

Penny Hulse, Chair Community and Environment Committee

Ross Clow, Whau Ward Councillor

Tracy Mulholland, Chair Whau Local Board


Sunday 10 September 2017


Removal of Scheduled Pecan Trees at 121 Avondale Road

The Tree Council and local residents are aghast that due to a mistake by Auckland Council staff three rare Pecan Trees that were listed on the Heritage Schedule in the Unitary Plan have been removed from private property at 121 Avondale Road.

We are advised by Ian Smallburn, Manager Resource Consents that “Two groups of pecan trees at 121 Avondale Road are scheduled as notable trees in the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Recently we were approached by the property owner to check if the trees were scheduled. While the trees are listed in the Auckland Unitary Plan text at the correct address, an error in our online maps meant that the trees were inadvertently recorded as being on a neighbouring property.

Subsequently, we have provided the property owner with incorrect information, advising them that the trees were not on the schedule, when in fact they were. As a result of our error, three trees have been removed. We deeply regret this matter and are checking all our processes and practices. There are two remaining scheduled trees which are part of the group located on the adjoining property.

Examples of mature Pecans in the Auckland area are extremely rare and this is yet another example where protected trees have been removed for no good reason. In this case it is an error of advice to the landowner, but The Tree Council is getting regular complaints of protected trees being illegally removed in SEAs, on private land protected by consent conditions and in reserves, where Council is not taking any enforcement action against the perpetrators. In addition consents are granted non-notified as a matter of course for trees protected in SEAs and on public land to be removed with no public process.

There needs to be an urgent attitude change within Auckland Council towards the protection of these significant urban assets, which provide our city and its residents with so many services and benefits. The Mayor has signalled that trees are important for our city with his laudable plan to plant a million new trees, but this policy looks farcical in the face of the loss of thousands of mature trees every year, many of them protected, with Council’s consent. It could take 100 years for any of the Mayor’s new saplings to start delivering the scale of benefits and services currently provided by these existing protected trees.

The Tree Council recently proposed a project to label scheduled trees in the Whau and all other Local Board areas in order to raise the public awareness that these specific trees are important and valuable to our community. It is highly likely that this mistake would not have happened and removal would not have taken place had the Pecan trees been clearly labeled as scheduled. We urge Auckland Council to support this proposal and label all our 6000 remaining scheduled heritage trees so that this can never happen again.

We also ask that Council discusses with the Avondale community providing some sort of memorial to commemorate the history being lost in what was Auckland’s market garden suburb and plants a grove of new Pecan trees in Avondale as some compensation to the community for the loss of these specific valuable assets.

We believe that this case exposes that the schedule and Council’s mapping is inaccurate and therefore mistakes are inevitable. We call for an immediate on-the-ground audit of the Schedule of Notable Trees and for the electronic version of the schedule to be made searchable and crossed checked against the Unitary Plan text and maps so that errors are corrected in the upcoming plan change and mistakes like this cannot happen again in future.

We also request that a new system is implemented by Council whereby the public can report or check issues relating to urban trees easily without having to deal with a number of different departments.

We have a meeting booked to discuss enforcement issues relating to trees with Councillor Chris Darby and we would like to see a positive response within Council’s Planning, Consents and Enforcement Departments towards the protection rather than the systematic removal of trees throughout our city in future. Auckland will be a poorer place for everyone without our remarkable urban forest and little enough of it now has any level of legal protection. We need to ensure we keep what we have left for future generations.

Kind regards

Sean Freeman

Chair, The Tree Council