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Maunga tree protection group ends vigil - Honour the Maunga

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The community group who has maintained a daily tree protection vigil for more than 820 days at Ōwairaka / Mt Albert says it will be standing down on Saturday 12 March following the unanimous Court of Appeal judgment that means the trees are safe for now.

The judicial decision found TÅ«puna Maunga Authority had acted unlawfully by failing to consult with the public over its decision to fell Ōwairaka’s exotic trees. The decision also concluded Auckland Council acted unlawfully by not publicly notifying the tree felling resource consent.

However, the decision also leaves the door open for the Authority to fell the trees in future, provided the consultation obligations are met. Furthermore, the Authority has also publicly signalled its intention to challenge the decision and/or effect a law change to undermine it. This means the trees’ long-term safety is not guaranteed.

Honour the Maunga’s leader Anna Radford says there is no longer a need for the group to remain at the maunga because the trees are safe for the foreseeable future. It will stay on a few more days, however, to let the many supportive maunga users from across the city know about the development.

Although Honour the Maunga may be ending its physical presence it will continue advocating for the maunga trees and is poised to act quickly should there be any move to fell them.

Furthermore, the group will be campaigning to raise awareness in this year’s local body elections regarding which Auckland Mayoral, Councilor and Local Board candidates do and do not support saving the maunga trees.

"We are and have always been an environmentally-focused organisation but along the way have become aware of how the people of Aucklands’ voices are being not only ignored but actively silenced by many elected representatives - especially those on the Authority - and unelected parties.

"This is a big problem that goes way beyond the maunga tree issue," she says.

"The Authority and Auckland Council have demonstrated destructive, divisive co-governance and we believe valuable lessons can be learned so that this kind of toxic situation can be prevented in any future co-governance arrangements."

Ms Radford says the Authority has acted in very poor faith in many ways, including misleading the public about its true intentions for the maunga, and deliberately weaponising and inflaming racial tensions to distract attention from its own behaviours.

"We are therefore highly sceptical that any future consultation about the trees will be in good faith or representative of true democracy by either the Authority or the Council.

"The upcoming local body elections present an important opportunity to let the people of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland who care about the maunga trees’ future to take action at the ballot box so that hopefully the next Mayor and elected representatives will treat the Auckland community and its natural environment with more integrity."

Honour the Maunga initially occupied Ōwairaka in November 2019 to prevent the co-governance TÅ«puna Maunga Authority from felling all 345 exotic trees on the maunga - nearly half its entire tree cover. In all, the ratepayer funded body plans to rid the city’s maunga of around 2500 non-native trees, despite Auckland Council and central government having declared a climate emergency.

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