Media release: for immediate release 1 February 2023

The Tree Council is experiencing first hand, along with everyone else, the worst ravages of the flooding, landslips, chaos and carnage currently engulfing Auckland.

The record-breaking rainfall and its unprecedented intensity is a clear signal of the future weather events we must expect to experience with increasing frequency as a result of climate change. 

The timing couldn’t be more ironic. In the week when submissions close on the Government’s long overdue reform of the Resource Management legislation, Auckland is hit by a storm never before seen and with consequences for our infrastructure and lives that will be felt by generations to come.

Unfortunately, the draft legislation of the Natural and Built Environment Bill (NBEB) as written will do absolutely nothing to prevent the damage and devastation being felt by Aucklanders being repeated in the future, because it does less than nothing to protect urban trees. In fact, it makes the current terrible state of tree protection under the Resource Management Act (RMA) even worse.

Even less trees will be protected under the NBEB than under the RMA now if essential changes to the drafting are not made by the Government. In particular Section 125 prevents councils from making any rules in their plans to protect trees and must be deleted.

The Tree Council would like to remind the Government that trees absorb water. They hold the soil together and stabilise slopes. Their canopies intercept 40% of the water that falls during a storm so it never reaches the ground. An individual mature tree can treat 16 cubic metres of stormwater per year – water that will hit the stormwater system when that tree is removed. Trees provide all these benefits to our cities for free. They are the only asset that becomes more valuable and more effective with age and size and yet they are being removed in the 1000s every week from our cities and the vast majority have no legal protection whatsoever under the current RMA – and will have even less under the draft NBEB.

The Tree Council urges the Government to use the opportunity presented by the NBEB to legally protect what is left of our urban forest on both private and public land – and enable the tree assets our cities already have to continue to provide these essential benefits and services for generations to come. When it comes to delivering these services size matters, newly planted saplings will not do any of this for 50-100 years. 

If we want to have functioning cities that are safe to live in – not to mention pleasant – then we need urban trees, and we need to keep the ones we have already got.

The Tree Council calls on the public to tell the Government how important urban tree protection is this week by making a quick submission on the Stop the Chop website before it’s too late for our urban forest. The deadline for submissions is 5 February.

Donations to support our work can be made via our ANZ bank account at 11-5462-0230022-11.


Floods in Auckland, January 2023 – credit: David White, Stuff