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Source: Auckland Council

This FAQ has been developed to help answer some of the common questions Aucklanders have about the stand of native trees located at 52-58 Canal Road in Avondale.

Who owns the land the trees are on, and why are the trees being cut down?

The land has been in the same private ownership since the 1960s. The landowner has decided to sell the land and a sale has been negotiated with a private purchaser. Sale conditions agreed by the landowner and purchaser require that the trees on site be removed prior to settlement.

Why doesn’t the council stop the trees from being cut down?

The trees are on private land. Auckland Council has no legal powers to stop the sale of the land or require the seller or purchaser to keep the trees.

Why doesn’t the council buy the land?

The land is not for sale. It is already under contract to a private buyer.

Why doesn’t the council do a “land swap” with the Canal Road property?

Auckland Council has explored a potential land exchange under the Reserves Act 1977 – swapping 52-58 Canal Road for the council-owned reserve at 14-18 Canal Road – however, the landowner and purchaser do not want to exchange the land for Canal Reserve. The council cannot legally force a land swap.

Why doesn’t the council pass a bylaw to protect the trees?

The Resource Management Act (RMA) was changed by the government in 2013 to remove blanket protections for urban trees on private property. Council bylaws cannot override Acts of Parliament and the council’s general bylaw power is limited to protecting the public from nuisance, protecting public health and safety or minimising offensive behaviour in public places.

Councils used to protect native trees/trees of significance, why can’t they do that anymore?

Before 2013, Auckland Council used ‘blanket’ tree protection rules to protect most trees above a certain size or significance within the region.

In 2013, the government changed the RMA to stop blanket tree protection on urban environment allotments as defined in section 76(4A) of the RMA.

As a result, Auckland Council can no longer apply blanket protections to trees on private land in urban areas, such as the Canal Road site.

Under the Unitary Plan, the council continues to be able to protect some urban trees, for example those located within a significant ecological area (SEA). The Notable Trees Schedule is also another form of protection in the Unitary Plan which currently lists around 6000 trees, the majority of which were ‘rolled over’ from legacy council schedules.

Why doesn’t the council add the trees to the Unitary Plan’s notable trees schedule?

A plan change to include the trees on Canal Road into Schedule 10 would take significant time and cannot be done in time to protect the trees. Properties at 52-58 Canal Road are under a sales contract. Any attempt by the council to prevent the removal of these trees would also put the council at considerable risk of legal action by the owner and purchaser who have already negotiated a sale.

Has Auckland Council asked the government to help with the Canal Road situation?

Mayor Phil Goff has called on the government seeking that changes be made to the RMA to enable greater tree general tree protection. The mayor has also spoken to ministers to see if the government agency Kāinga Ora would purchase the land and undertake a ‘land swap’ with Auckland Council. However, Kāinga Ora has said this is not possible.

Has Auckland lost or gained urban canopy cover?

Since 2013, Auckland’s average urban forest canopy cover has increased in Auckland by about 60 hectares, an area equivalent to around 60 sports fields.

From 2016-2019, over 1 million trees were planted as part of the Mayor’s Million Tree programme. And in this mayoral term, over 1.5 million more trees will be planted.