Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Trees’

Resolve is building to save our trees

Posted by on March 1st, 2013

 

Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association public meeting, 21 February 2013.

Resolve is really building in West Auckland to stop National’s chainsaw massacre in the Waitakere Ranges.

Te Atatū Labour MP Phil Twyford, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Maryan Street, Councillors, Local Board representatives and ratepayers groups are all backing the community’s determination to save our trees – which together we surely will.

Following my earlier post I’ve had a few requests for copies of the speech I gave at the recent local meeting to save our trees. So I’ve popped it on my website here.

David Cunliffe’s speech to the Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association – Saving our trees (again) – 21 February 2013

Here’s wishing Red Alert readers the chance to enjoy some of New Zealand’s great outdoors with family and friends this weekend.


Saving West Auckland’s trees (again and again and again)

Posted by on February 22nd, 2013

 

Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association public meeting, 21 February 2013.

Last night Te Atatū Labour MP Phil Twyford and I joined a packed public meeting hosted by the Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association in my New Lynn electorate.

For too many attendees this was a groundhog day event.

Because yet again Westies are being forced to stand up to a Wellington-led move to abolish tree protection rules in the Waitakere Ranges. It really is crazy. But it seems that destroying West Auckland’s natural heritage has become a National Party obsession.

Environment Minister Amy Adams’ so-called Resource Management Reform Bill is a very poorly drafted piece of law. I reckon it’s deliberate, because when you untangle the jargon it’s nothing but a recipe for a chainsaw massacre.

Well West Aucklanders have seen all this before. We love our patch, we were staunch against Wellington’s chainsaws every other time – and last night the public meeting unanimously voted that we’ll be staunch against them now.

The National Government could save themselves one heck of a headache (and avoid underestimating the West Auckland community again) by simply excluding the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area from part 12 of Adams’ Bill.

But if National uses its numbers on behalf of the Property Council to push the chainsaw massacre through, then locals are determined this will not be the end of the story.

With the support of Auckland’s Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Councillor Sandra Coney, Waitakere Ranges Local Board Chair Denise Yates and member Greg Presland, the Ratepayers have agreed we will propose to Auckland Council a Local Bill to revisit this attack.

Waitakere is our place. The rainforest in the Ranges is our children’s and their children’s natural heritage.

With shared resolve, and with history on our side, Westies will certainly save our trees again.

Upper Nihotupu Reservoir in the beautiful Waitakere Ranges.

 


RMA Reforms: The Chainsaw Massacre Part II

Posted by on December 9th, 2012

A curious thing happened last week. The government introduced to Parliament the first of two pieces of legislation to “reform” the Resource Management Act. That isn’t itself curious, what is, is that the Minister responsible, Amy Adams has not even put out a media release about the Bill.

Hard to fathom why, but if it is because she is ashamed, then she has every right to be. While there is innocuous and even possibly useful changes in the Bill, it gives a number of signals of the government’s on-going desire to centralise power away from communities, reduce public input and tip the scales away from sustainable development. You can read more about Labour’s concerns here. and here.

Nothing exemplifies National’s approach better than the proposal to change the rules around what Councils can do to protect trees. This might not sound like a huge issue, but it has a lot of history, and National is buying a fight that is as wrong as it is silly.

Essentially what the Bill proposes is that a tree protection rule in a council plan can only apply to a particular tree that is specifically identified in the plan, or a grove of trees that are located on the same or adjacent allotments. The effect of this is that Councils will not be able to protect species or types of trees. The inverse of course is that if a specific tree is not protected then it could be felled. Whatever a bureaucratic nightmare will ensue.

The history here is that the government tried to make similar changes in their 2009 RMA reforms. The good people of Waitakere took a case to the Environment Court that created a definition of “groups of trees” that saw blanket protection possible for bush clad areas. Greg Presland has a good description of the situation and a link to the Environment Court judgement, here.

The law change proposed this last week is directly aimed at overturning the Court decision. But more than that it is a further attempt (alongside the Local Government Act and other aspects of this Bill) to take away from communities the right to make decisions about how they wish their communities to look and feel. And for no good reason at all.

I am sure this will re-ignite the debate about the protection of trees, especially in West Auckland. From Labour’s point of view we will strongly oppose this provision. Trees are a vital part of our environment, in rural and urban settings. Moreover we have to call time on a government that is systematically reducing the power of communities to decide their own future.


The Lorax stirs

Posted by on September 7th, 2009

This Government has taken an axe to so many things…metaphorically speaking: Kiwisaver, night classes, the R & D tax credit. Ahh, the list goes on.

But it is now taking an axe – more literally – to our urban forest with the banning of tree protection rules. The ban is found in cl 52 of the Resource Management Amendment Bill due for its second reading this week, and well covered on the front page of this morning’s Herald.

By prohibiting tree protection rules that say you cannot cut down any tree over a certain size without getting a consent, the only option will be for Councils to list individual trees they want to protect. As many submitters to the select committee pointed out, this would be so expensive as to be impractical. It’s not going to happen.  Auckland’s leafy burbs will have more chainsaw noise than a Mooloo game. See David Shearer’s post for more on this.

For National this is a trophy in their crusade against red tape. But it is pure ideology. Environment Minister Nick Smith rejected Jeanette Fitzsimons’ compromise solution that would have made tree protection rules less onerous by allowing pruning without a consent and making consents easier and quicker to obtain.

Meanwhile the Lorax is stirring. Emails demanding cl 52 be dropped have been flooding the in-boxes of Auckland MPs. Conservation groups have mobilised. Two hundred people attended an angry public meeting in Grey Lynn last week and another one is planned out west.

Where are National’s Auckland MPs on this? Labour and Green MPs fronted the Grey Lynn meeting but no sign of Nikki Kaye or any other National MP.

While she wasn’t at the public meeting, Nikki Kaye has projected a lot of empathy on this issue over recent months around central Auckland where there is intense concern over the fate of our urban coastal forest. But on this issue, as with the cuts to night classes and the Government’s unpopular super city, Ms Kaye talks a good line in empathy and concern in the electorate but votes the other way in Wellington.

In the local Ponsonby News Ms Kaye had this to say:

I understand the value of trees in an urban environment. Unfortunately, like John Elliott I have some concerns about the potential impact of the tree provisions within the RMA. Over the next few weeks I will be working with the Party and people like John Elliott to see what I can do to allay those concerns either through legislation or policy.

I challenge Nikki Kaye to oppose cl 52 in the House this week. Most of her Auckland Central constituents don’t want our trees to be put at risk. Empathy is a fine thing but it is how you vote in the House that really counts. She should support the amendment Labour and the Greens will be putting up to delete cl 52, or explain to her constituents why she is not supporting it.


Auckland’s green areas under threat

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009

A possible wholesale destruction of Auckland’s green areas could result if clauses 52 and 151 the government’s Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill goes through unchanged. The National-ACT Government is insisting that these clauses stay. I spoke at a meeting on Tuesday evening in Grey Lynn to a passionate group of about 200 people really concerned that trees will disappear from our urban environment. Anger and concern is growing as people start to understand the implications of what is coming.

Labour’s message is that we will work hard to change clauses 52 and 151, together with the Greens. But ultimately if the government insists on pushing them through, they have the majority to do so.

So what’s wrong with the Bill?

Clauses 52 and 151 of the bill remove rules that provide general tree protection in an urban area. Essentially councils will no longer be able to place a blanket ban on protecting trees as many councils currently do. In other words, currently trees are protected. If someone wants to fell a tree, they apply to the council for a consent to do it. Most consents are granted.

The Government claims the current system is too cumbersome and expensive. It wants to take the restrictions off trees. Instead it will schedule and protect individual trees.

There’s a whole lot wrong with that approach. First, communities should decide how they protect their environment. Why is central government stepping into legislate something that should be the prerogative of the local council? Isn’t this nanny state? Or more accurately ninny state, because it also doesn’t make any sense.

It will be very expensive and bureaucratic to protect trees individually – exactly what the Government wants to prevent. It doesn’t remove red tape, it just transfers it. More importantly it carries some serious risks.

  1. The government’s proposal will force council’s to list trees they want to protect. If a tree is not on this protected list, it can be chopped down with impunity.
  2. The natural character of the shoreline should be protected, for example. But much of that character involves the presence of trees that will no longer be protected. Our pohutukawas and other native trees on the coastline are most under threat from people wanting to improve their view.
  3. How will we decide which trees will be scheduled? Clearly this job will take time. In the meantime, there’s a strong risk that landowners will fell trees before they are put on the list, creating a rush to chop down trees in urban areas.
  4. There are real subsidence and erosion risks if tree cover is removed.
  5. Approvals for tree removal and pruning are often given currently on the condition that other trees are planted as a replacement. Will that continue to be the case? It’s less likely for sure.
  6. Large ancient trees are community assets, not just those on an individual’s property. They have often been there for hundreds of years. When it is requested that a tree be removed, there needs to be a wider say about the loss of amenities, shade, ecological loss etc. Often an arborist can make a visit and suggest other options, pruning, for example, which removes the need to take the tree out. And once a large tree is gone, we’ll not see another grow in our lifetimes.

The current system of applying to cut down trees has its limitations. It can be slow and bureaucratic. So let’s look at ways at improving that. Let’s address the problem through a sensible amendment. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and allow wholesale felling of trees except for those few that are scheduled.

This is an early sign of National’s deregulation agenda and I’m sure we will see a lot more of it in the coming months.

The Labour Party will be working constructively and positively with the Green Party on a compromise but unfortunately the Act-National coalition have refused to negotiate. We will keep trying and keep an open mind.

Pressure from the public is crucial. With ACT, the National Government has a majority. That is why I encourage people to write to the Environment Minister, Dr Nick Smith, and their local National MP – particularly those in marginal seats where trees are important part of their communities. They need to be told that trees are important and while the Resource Management Act may not be perfect, this is a step too far.

Environment Minister: nick.smith@parliament.govt.nz

Auckland National MPs: nikki.kaye@parliament.govt.nz, paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz, sam.lotu-iiga@parliament.govt.nz