For reasons that are unknown to me, the National-led government hates trees. As part of their “Stream-lining and Wholesale Destruction of the Urban Canopy Amendment Bill”, National are pushing through a somewhat ridiculous amendment to the RMA Bill. Basically, this week, the Nats will ram-rod through a number of amendments, including Clause 52 where it will allow people to cut down any trees they like, without having to ask permission. It’s that whole right-wing anti-nanny state thing that ACT and National espouse so much – “no one is gonna tell me what to do with my trees” that sounds just like the the NRA’s famous line espoused so clearly by Charlton Heston “they’ll only take my gun from my cold dead hands”.
Basically, the law is being changed to allow people to cut down trees that block their views or their sunlight, but the blanket provisions are almost certainly bound to have some nasty side effects as our cities become denuded of greenery. But it’s far worse than just targeting your own tree.

The Select Committee reported back to the Minister earlier this week in favour of removing urban tree protection, despite pleading from submitters. If this goes ahead, Local Councils will be prohibited from being able to introduce or enforce general urban tree protection at all. It is expected that the government will put this Bill through the final parliamentary process as soon as Thursday 27th August, but no later than 1st October 2009 after which it would become law. If passed, all NZ Councils will be prohibited from introducing urban tree protection rules from the date the law is passed and all Councils with existing rules will be required to phase them out by January 2012.

That is just stupid, and rude, and plain idiotic. Wellington suffered at the hands of the Chow brothers when they deliberately cut down a listed, protected tree on Tory Street, despite knowing full well that they had no right. They were found guilty, and fined a paltry sum compared to the 2 years in jail they should have spent, or the $200,000 fine they could have faced. If this bill goes through, the Nats and ACT will allow this kind of arboreal slaughter go on on a massive scale, and I for one am appalled by it.

The New Zealand Arboricultural Association notes that the benefits of Urban trees include many amenities, such as:
carbon sequestration,
stormwater control (cost savings for rate payers),
reduced heating/air conditioning bills,
increased revenue for business,
cyclic rain fall critical to farm-belts/reservoirs,
silt control/water quality (healthy fish),
land stability/erosion control,
increased tourism revenue (clean green NZ image),
physical/mental health,
wildlife habitats,
pollution filters,
oxygen source,
UV/wind protection,
controlled local temperatures (climate change!)

In an age where environmental crisis’ are being accepted by nations as key concerns and as it becomes more critical to maintain an ecological balance and increase carbon sequestration, while we still have an opportunity, it seems short sighted, naive and destructive to consider removing general tree protection. This may have devastating effects on our urban tree cover and would allow anyone to remove almost any urban trees, giving free reign to fell trees for money, views or other spurious reasons with no requirement to replant for future generations.

The Minister cited money as a reason for removing tree protection, stating that the current consents system in the Auckland region is costly and cumbersome. There are options to introduce more efficient and effective systems without removing tree protection altogether. The New Zealand Arboricultural Association (NZAA) has offered the Minister free consultation and access to research that would allow them to achieve this goal. This has been refused.”


Do you cherish coastal Pohutukawa? Do you value riparian margin vegetation and street trees? Do you have a duty of care for our shared environment and therefore should live with and benefit from general tree protection? Do you feel trees are important enough to be protected for future generations and the health and well being of all New Zealanders?

If you do agree, then the country urgently needs people to write letters to MPs and to newspapers to help influence their final decision – if only people felt so strongly about the birds and the trees as they do about their right to belt the heck out of their children’s butts. Write IMMEDIATELY to your MP and to the Select Committee and ask them to:

Delete CLAUSE 52 from the proposed bill, or to
SUPPORT the NZAA’s or the Green Party’s amendments to the bill.
The Select Committee:-;

Don’t delay: do it now.

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