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Source: Mana Rākau

The community tree protection group which formed over the struggle to protect a stand of native trees in Canal Road Avondale is celebrating a new law which ends the nationwide prohibition on general tree protection.

The Natural and Built Environment Bill passed its third reading this week in Parliament and nullified a clause in the Resource Management Act which prohibited local councils from putting in place general tree protection.

“In the years since John Key removed general tree protection we’ve seen total carnage of our urban ngāhere. Bringing back tree protection is a long time overdue and is the vital first step in saving and restoring the tree canopies in our towns and cities,” says tree protector and arborist Zane Wedding.

“Mana Rākau is now calling on all political parties at election time to commit to general tree protection and put in place the necessary rules to require all local councils to implement meaningful tree protection.”

The group says that while it was a National Government that removed general tree protection they are optimistic that comments made at the Select Committee by Senior National MP Chris Bishop this year mean even a change of Government won’t see tree protection overturned again.

“We are optimistic that whether we have a Labour or National led government after the election that, given how terrible the loss of trees has been without rules, that everyone should now realise that we need legal protection of trees if we want to keep them standing,” says Wedding.

During the submission of Zane Wedding, Mark Lockhart and Steve Abel at Select Committee this year, Chris Bishop stated, “I am fast coming around to the view that we need good urban tree protection to make more liveable cities not only from a climate point of view.”

To ensure tree protection laws are fully implemented Mana Rākau intends to deliver an already 10,000 strong petition to Parliament, after the election, which calls for tree protection.

“Whomever the Government is after October 14, we will hold them to account for protecting trees which are vital to the liveability and survivability of our cities and our planet,” says Wedding.  

The issue of general tree protection was put in the headlines in 2020 during the gruelling struggle to save the Canal Road native trees in Avondale which led to New Zealand’s longest ever urban tree occupation lasting 245 days. The Canal Road tree campaign ended with a covert poisoning of the trees and later a huge police mobilisation which held protesters at bay while Developer Paul Macey and landowner Daniel Raymond cut the stand down on 9 March 2021.

“If you want to understand the sad state of a world without tree protection you just have to look at the barren Canal Road site today.”  

“But this week, as the law allowing tree protection was passed, we felt like our struggle at Canal Road, though those amazing trees were lost, was not for nothing, and contributed to protecting what remains.”

Mana Rākau is a community group dedicated to advocacy for the protection of trees in recognition of their inherent value and their importance for human wellbeing, mātauranga Māori, biodiversity, and climate change.