Tūpuna Maunga Authority takes next step in controversial tree plan

Ōwairaka Source/File

Today the Tūpuna Maunga Authority may finally get its way to start removing exotic trees from Auckland maunga and replace them with natives.

Objectors to its original proposal to fell 345 trees on Ōwairaka and replace them with native species occupied part of the site to protest and then took the authority to court, finally gaining a win at the Court of Appeal, which said the authority had not consulted the community properly before going ahead with its management plan change.

The appeal court found the authority acted unlawfully by failing to comply with its consultation obligations under the Reserves Act. The decision also concluded Auckland Council acted unlawfully by not publicly notifying the tree-felling resource consent under the Resource Management Act.

The court did not rule the felling had to stop; it merely required a proper legal process be followed first.

The ratepayer-funded co-governance body had wider plans to remove 2500 non-native trees. Initially, non-notified resource consents were issued for for tree fellings on Puketāpapa / Mt Roskill, Ōtāhuhu / Mt Richmond and Te Tātua a Riukiuta / Big King.

The authority has now ticked all the required boxes by seeking submissions on an amendment to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority Integrated Management Plan, which closed last month.

Hot topic

The authority received 1,547 submissions, proving the tree-felling plans are still controversial. It is not known how many of the submissions are objecting because the authority said it was not appropriate to discuss the contents of the submissions before today’s public hearing.

The Honour the Maunga group, which opposed the Ōwairaka plan is hoping the tree-felling won't go ahead quickly.

Earlier this year its spokeswoman Anna Radford said: “Naturally, we are hoping it won’t come to that because environmentally friendly succession to fully native vegetation on the maunga requires it to be done over a long period.”

Last month the authority objected to surreptitious planting on Ōwairaka.

A sacred archaeological area of Ōwairaka/Mt Albert in Auckland was damaged, after 27 trees were found to have been planted on the site illegally.

The disturbed area is previously unmodified, meaning it was in the original form of the maunga dating back near 1000 years to a preserved historic pā settlement.

At one section the planting spans a historic pā terrace and there is also evidence of disturbed midden, or ancient shell deposits, dating to the pā site.

Similar damage occurred on other Auckland maunga and historic sites. Ōtāhuhu/Mt Richmond in October 2018 and Takarunga/Mt Victoria in September 2019.