Open letter to Auckland Council Compliance Department 

Cc: Jim Stabback, CEO Auckland Council

His Worship the Mayor Phil Goff

Linda Cooper, Chair Regulatory Committee

Tracy Mulholland, Whau Ward Councillor

Kay Thomas, Chair Whau Local Board


5 April 2021

Re: Illegal removal of titoki tree within rootzone of scheduled pohutukawa at 52-58 Canal Rd, Avondale on 9 March 2021

Kia ora koutou,

The Tree Council made an official complaint regarding the illegal removal of this tree. 

We provided video, photographic and affidavit evidence to Auckland Council to support our complaint.

We have received the following response from your Specialist Compliance Officer:

“The Investigations team have finished their investigation regarding the tree that was cut on the 9th of March.

An arborist from Council was consulted during this investigation period.

Their findings are as follows:

The Compliance team has carefully reviewed the works undertaken involving the removal of the Titoki tree growing in close proximity to the notable Pohutukawa against Chapter D13 – Notable Trees Overlay of the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) (Unitary Plan).

In particular Activity Table D13.4.1 (A6) states that “tree trimming or alteration that does not comply with Standard D13.6.1” has an activity status of ‘restricted discretionary’ and triggers resource consent.  The Titoki is not scheduled as notable on this site, and therefore the rule does not apply to this tree.

(A9) of the same Activity Table states “work within the protected root zone not otherwise provided for” has an activity status of ‘restricted discretionary’ which would also trigger resource consent.  From the information we have seen and been provided, the removal of the Titoki tree was not undertaken in the protected root zone of the notable Pohutukawa and furthermore, did not cause adverse effects on the Pohutukawa.  In fact it appears that the area around the Pohutukawa tree was well mulched and there was no evidence of damage.

As there has not been a breach of the Unitary Plan found in relation to the removal of the Titoki tree, we will not be taking any further action in relation to the matter.”

The Tree Council would like to request Auckland Council tell us what definition of the “protected root zone of the notable Pohutukawa” they are using to make this decision? 

We would like to know where that definition is stated in the Unitary Plan or other Council policy?

We would like to know why it would appear that Auckland Council is defining the rootzone as less than the dripline of the notable pohutukawa – because we have provided evidence which proves that the titoki was within the dripline.

We would like to know why the issue of damage is relevant to the decision on whether to take enforcement action, when the breach of the Unitary Plan is as stated above “work within the protected root zone not otherwise provided for” which was done without consent.

Protected rootzone is defined in the arboricultural industry best practice which is in the Australian Standard AS4970 – 2009 Protection of trees on development sites, adopted by New Zealand Arboricultural Association (NZAA) along with the British Standard BS 5837:2012 Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction and the American Standard ANSI A300 (Part 5)-2012: Management of Trees and Shrubs During Site Planning, Site Development, and Construction. There are minor variations between the three standards but NZAA helpfully have this statement on their website, “The Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) which is a is a circle taken from the centre of the trunk with a radius equal to 12 times the diameter of the trunk measured at 1.4m (DBH) above ground level. An incursion of any more than 10% of the area of the TPZ is considered a ‘major incursion’

We would also like to point out that the mulching of the rootzone of the notable pohutukawa was not performed by the landowner nor the developer, but by the community who had been occupying the site to protect the trees for over 240 days.

The loss of Auckland’s urban forest due to the lack of general tree protection is catastrophic and is a daily ongoing tragedy for future generations that will be regretted by those facing the realities of a climate emergency in a few decades time. The very least that the ratepaying public should be able to expect is that Auckland Council will protect the few special trees that do have legal protection and enforce that protection when it is breached. This decision not only lets the community down it opens the door to other unscrupulous landowners removing trees within the dripline of scheduled trees without consent. It must be challenged and scrutinised and if there are gaps or errors in Auckland Council’s policy and decision making framework in relation to enforcement and compliance then they must be corrected.  

We would therefore appreciate a reply justifying your definition of the protected rootzone as less than the dripline of the notable scheduled pohutukawa. 

We also request an independent review of the decision made by your officer that no breach of the Unitary Plan has occurred.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Ngā mihi maioha

Dr Mels Barton

021 213 7779

Secretary, The Tree Council

Photo: John Clark