National | Auckland Council

Owairaka tree fight goes full circle

The Supreme Court has refused to hear an application by Auckland’s Tūpuna Maunga Authority to appeal a decision blocking the immediate removal of 345 exotic trees from Owairaka (Mount Albert).

The Court of Appeal had previously found that the authority acted unlawfully by failing to comply with its obligations to consult the community.

It ruled that, while the authority’s management plan for the maunga did say it planned to plant native species, it had not made it clear that a large number of mature exotic trees would be removed and that it would be done all at once. It found the authority needed to follow the consultation provision in the Reserves Act if it wanted to remove all the trees.

The Supreme Court says the Court of Appeal decision does not affect the integrity or efficacy of the Tāmaki Collective settlement or co-governance arrangements, which the authority had argued.

The authority, which co-governs Auckland’s mountain reserves on behalf of 13 Tāmaki Makaurau iwi, announced plans to replace the Ōwairaka trees with natives in November 2019.

However, nearby residents expressed alarm at the loss of mature oaks and other exotics and suggested if all were removed at once, it would affect bird life on the maunga.

Meanwhile, a Tupuna Mauna Authority spokesperson has said the authority would take advice on the implications of the court’s decision for the Tūpuna Maunga restoration programme. "It is noted the Court of Appeal did not decide against tree removal, rather the legal process to be followed."