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Labour proposes law change to protect heritage trees

Labour is pledging to introduce legislation to provide automatic protection to heritage trees to ensure situations such as the one in Auckland where a decades old Kauri came close to being felled by property developers doesn’t happen again.

“An overwhelming majority of Aucklanders wanted this tree saved,” Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Goff said.

“Despite that we had Environment Minister Nick Smith saying it was up to the Council to do something, while Auckland Council claimed it was powerless to do anything.

“When National changed the Resource Management Act in 2009, the blanket legal protection that Waitakere Council placed over such tress was removed. Provisions under the new Act required Councils to list protected trees individually.

“This is a time-consuming, bureaucratic and costly process and risks heritage trees not being listed and being destroyed.

“The Titirangi case, where determined protest action stopped the Kauri being cut down, is more likely to be the exception rather than the norm under the law.

“It’s time to reassert a sensible level of environmental protection. While the original law may have been too comprehensive, the new one went too far in removing reasonable protection and requires formal consent to prevent heritage trees from being destroyed.

“The default position should be that such trees are automatically protected, unless a legitimate case can be made for their being felled.

“Labour will be consulting around how heritage trees should be defined and best protected before introducing a Members or Local Bill to achieve this outcome,” Phil Goff said.