Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
Question No. 2—Environment
2. Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he consider that trees in our cities and towns are appropriately protected; if so, why?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I agree that the protection of mature and ecologically significant trees in urban areas is an important consideration and the Government is actively considering this as part of the reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA). It’s also important that protections don’t create excessive compliance costs for routine pruning or the removal of smaller trees. I’m advised that prior to the changes to the RMA that occurred under the last National Government, there were an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 resource consents required to prune or remove trees per year, which is around 10 percent of total resource consents issued. In addition, many people thought the rules requiring consents were sometimes absurd and ignored them, bringing the RMA into disrepute.
Hon Eugenie Sage: From a climate perspective, is he concerned that in the Waitematā Local Board area alone, at least 12,879 trees were removed in the 10 years from 2006 to 2016?
Hon DAVID PARKER: From a climate perspective, no. You know, a few hectares of trees elsewhere would more than offset that.
Hon Eugenie Sage: Does he consider that increasing housing density and protecting urban trees are complementary changes that enable liveable cities?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes.
Hon Eugenie Sage: Will he commit to urgent action to protect urban trees on private land as denser housing is developed, so people can enjoy the benefits urban trees provide, including sequestering carbon, creating shade, reducing the urban heat island effect—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! The member’s got quite a few questions in there.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, those decisions are delegated under the Resource Management Act for councils to take. Sometimes they have to take difficult decisions. When they go through a process and they consider it and then they give an authorisation for a tree to be felled—for example, for a new housing development—then that process should be respected.
Hon Eugenie Sage: What tools is he considering providing councils to enable effective urban tree protection on private land and how is this work being prioritised?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The work is being progressed as part of the reform to the RMA through the Natural and Built Environments Bill, which we propose, and I’m working with Minister Twyford on that issue as an Associate Minister for the Environment. The ministry is, I’m aware, working with councils not just in Auckland but also across the land to try and land this in the right place.