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Battle of the branch

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Battle of the branch

Megan Vertelle of Protect Piha Heritage with LB member Greg Presland

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board voted tonight (26 September) to reject the options put to it by Auckland Transport: to remove a limb off an iconic pohutukawa at 58 Beach Valley Road or build a costly boardwalk to go around it. A resounding majority of the board voted to ask Auckland Transport “to explore options that preferably do not include removal of the limb or a boardwalk around the tree”. (words may not be exact).

A complaint had been lodged by the Beach Valley Road Sustainable Neighbourhoods project that the tree was a pedestrian hazard, and without any consultation with the community, Auckland Transport applied for and gained (within a week) a consent to remove one of two limbs off the tree. The consent application said it was intended to apply to remove the whole tree at a later stage.

There was particular concern within Piha and much wider, that Auckland Transport stated that within its corridor envelope (4.25 metres high and to the boundaries of the road corridor), it could remove protruding vegetation. This was seen as a threat to roads throughout Piha and much more widely, the whole heritage area.

At the meeting, John Edgar spoke on behalf of Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, referring to the “death  by a thousand cuts” of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that led to the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act. “Protect this tree,” he said, ” find another way.”

Megan Vertelle of Protect Piha Heritage talked about the peace and quiet of Beach Valley Road and suggested a simple beach sign saying “Duck!” might alert walkers. She presented a sample to the Board.

Jan O’Connor said she had been walking down the road since she was 9-years-old and was “surprised one complaint had gone this far.”

Mels Barton for Auckland Tree Council expressed concern that a consent was granted to remove the limb, when submitters were in the middle of asking the trees to be scheduled under Plan Change 41, and that Council officers had assured her that the trees would be assessed as part of the Unitary Plan.

Bobbie Carroll spoke in favour of the branch removal, saying it was difficult for pedestrians to get past the tree.

Roger Wilson for Auckland Transport said that the decision to remove the branch was made after “a complaint was lodged aboput an injury alleged to have occured.” He stressed that Auckland Transport was “looking for a way forward”, and was “open to other alternatives; it was not commited to cutting the limb.”

He conceded that Auckland Transport was still learning about community preferences and that different approaches would be needed in different parts of the city. He assured Local Board members that the limb would not be removed while what to do next was examined.

Local Board members were interested in some of the alternative proposals that had been proposed, including removal of some barriers, signage, and shared space. There was much discussion about process, with member Greg Presland calling it “less than optimal”, in that it “set a precedent without local people knowing what is happening.”

The final resolution was put by Judy Lawley and supported by Denise Yates, Janet Clews, Neil Henderson and Greg Presland. Mark Brickell voted againts it.

As a note: the $12,000 plus figure quoted in the press as the cost of the resource consent, turned out to be $2,500 for the RC, and over $6000 in costs incurred by Auckland Transport.

The threatened branch at 58 Beach Valley Road in full flower






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