Press statement regarding tree removal on Ōwairaka and other Maunga from The Tree Council
12 November 2019
The Tree Council fully supports the Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s plans to restore indigenous native ecosystems on the slopes of Ōwairaka (and the other 13 Maunga in Auckland) as part of the healing of the Maunga. The Tree Council has always recognised the positive role that large established trees can play in our environment whether they are exotic or native. However, the long-term outcomes of removing exotic and weed species and restoring the native ecology, not just on one Maunga but between all of them, will be hugely positive for both Mt Albert residents and the whole of Auckland.
In August this year the first phase of the restoration plan for Ōwairaka was carried out with the planting of 2,700 native shrubs on the slopes with help from around 100 local residents. The plan is to plant 13,000 natives in the next couple of years. The second phase is the removal of approximately 345 exotic trees from Ōwairaka. This work was planned to commence this week under consents issued by Auckland Council.
The Tree Council would like to highlight that it is the express intention of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s Integrated Management Plan to restore and enable the role and responsibility of Mana Whenua as kaitiaki over the Tūpuna Maunga alongside recognition of European and other histories and interactions with the Maunga.
The Integrated Management Plan was publicly notified in April 2016 when members of the public were able to make submissions on their views on what was being proposed. Over the last 12 months the Tūpuna Maunga Authority has been running regular public Hui in relation to all aspects of their management of each of the Maunga. These Hui have provided an opportunity for any member of the public to raise their concerns about the Integrated Management Plan and for the Authority to explain the rationale behind specific elements of that Plan.
The Tree Council supports the objectives and vision for the Tūpuna Maunga contained within the Integrated Management Plan. We recognise that whilst to many Aucklanders (ourselves included) these unique landscapes are highly valued recreational spaces, to the Iwi these are treasures handed down through the generations with the tihi (summits) being the most sacred places that have over time been seriously damaged by ill-advised and ill-informed developments, including the exotic plantings imposed on the land.
We recognise that this is a cultural issue as much as it is an ecological one, and The Tree Council supports the Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s autonomy over how they want to manage their Maunga, having finally had them returned to them under the Treaty after at least 180 years of colonial control.
We acknowledge the very real concerns that people feel about seeing established trees being removed from a familiar landscape, but hopefully gaining a better understanding of the complete plans for restoring native vegetation and native ecology to the slopes of Ōwairaka, and the other Maunga, and the reasoning behind those plans will allay some of those concerns.