The Tree Council has lodged proceedings in the High Court against Auckland Council’s decision not to process any of the 587 nominations it has received over the last 7-10 years to schedule trees as Notable Trees since the creation of Schedule 10 (Notable Trees) of the Unitary Plan.
Auckland Council’s Planning Committee decided in November 2020 that nothing would be done to process the 587 nominations already received by the Council until “resources permit” despite a presentation to the Committee from Mark Lockhart of The Tree Council requesting that the work was prioritised to protect the remaining significant mature trees in Tāmaki Makaurau.
The Tree Council subsequently wrote to Auckland Council’s CEO Jim Stabback requesting that resources for this work were made available in the 10 year plan 2021-31, but Mr Stabback replied that he “would not be recommending to elected members that they allocate funding to the updating of Schedule 10 of the Auckland Unitary Plan for the Long Term Plan 2021-2031”.
The cost of undertaking the work to assess these nominations and schedule those trees that qualified was quoted as $871,000 in the report to the Planning Committee.
The Tree Council has obtained legal advice that Auckland Council has an obligation under the Resource Management Act to maintain the Notable Trees Schedule and considers that by refusing to resource and undertake this work for the last 7-10 years – and potentially for the next 10 years – they are failing in their legal duty.
“It is outrageous that Auckland Council cares so little about the remaining trees worthy of being scheduled as “Notable” that they are not prepared to allocate the resources to process these nominations. It is an insult to the people who nominated these trees in good faith anticipating that those nominations would be processed at some point over the last 7-10 years, as well as all Auckland residents who are losing the natural heritage of the region on a daily basis because these trees remain unprotected” said The Tree Council’s Chair Sean Freeman.
“The Tree Council would be surprised if more that 10% of those trees nominated are still existing and able to qualify for scheduling because of the massive loss of trees on private land over the last 6 years since general tree protection was removed from the RMA. We are in a climate emergency and mature trees are the best carbon store we have and yet Auckland Council has not resourced this work and apparently has no intention of doing so. We don’t think that is good enough and that ratepayers deserve a better service from their council in protecting the region’s natural heritage.”
The Tree Council would like Auckland Council to reconsider its approach to the nominations for Schedule 10 and prioritise this work while at least some of the 587 trees nominated are still standing.
In addition The Tree Council implores the Government to reinstate general tree protection on private land in the proposed Natural and Built Environments Bill. Supporters sent over 2400 individual submissions calling for this to the recent select committee on the exposure draft of the Bill.
The Tree Council thanks its supporters for the donations that are enabling this legal action to take place and welcomes further donations to support this work. Details of our bank account can be found on our website www.thetreecouncil.org.nz