A street tree planting policy for Auckland

Notice of Motion: Auckland Transport Street Tree Planting Policy

A notice of motion is a useful tool available to elected representatives to get action on an issue when the organisation fails to respond by other means.  As lead of the transport porfolio for the Waitemata Local Board I have a particular interest in what goes on in the road corridor managed by Auckland Transport. I want our streets to be safe, vibrant, well connected and beautifully designed for everyone to enjoy.  I’ve come to appreciate how much trees benefit our urban environment and can enhance every transport-led project (not to mention act to reduce GHG emissions).

However what I have come up against time and time again is the lack of a standard practice or policy to ensure Auckland Transport plants street trees. Many oppportunities are being missed to add trees to the city streetscape.   Individual project managers are doing their best but the budget arrangements between AT and Auckland Council parks are a block to trees being incorporated into street designs and renewal projects. I’ve set out these issues and examples below by way of background to my Notice of Motion.

At the Waitemata Local Board meeting last night (14 June 2016) my recommendations were unanimously passed (seconded by Member Dempsey).  We all recognise the huge value of street trees and would like to help Auckland Transport progress a tree planting policy for Auckland.


a)      That the Notice of Motion be received.

b)      That the Waitematā Local Board:

i) notes the benefits of urban street trees and the Auckland Plan, City Centre Master Plan and Waitematā Local Board Plan 2014 commitment to plant street trees;

ii) requests Auckland Transport in association with Auckland Council Parks develop:

  • A street tree planting policy; and
  • A strategy to meet the City Centre Masterplan street tree target of a 25% increase by 2021;

iii) requests Auckland Transport allocate budget (capex and opex) for funding new street trees as part of streetscape projects and footpath renewals;

iii) requests that this Notice of Motion is circulated to all Local Boards, the Parks, Recreation and Sports Committee, Auckland Development Committee, Auckland Transport Board and Chief Executive and Auckland Council Policy and Bylaws team


Auckland Council, with the support of the Waitematā Local Board, has made a clear commitment to plant street trees in the urban environment.

Directive 8.2 of the Auckland Plan is to protect, enhance and increase Auckland’s green infrastructure networks. Auckland Council is committed to increasing the number of trees on reserves and streets. Council has committed to valuing natural heritage and ‘greening’ Auckland’s expanding network of open public spaces which provides for a more attractive city, while reducing GHG emissions and improving community resilience to the effects of climate change and resource scarcity and by supporting local food production.

As outlined in the Waitematā Local Board Plan, the board supports “increasing the number of native plants and trees in our parks and streets to help restore biodiversity”  (Local Board Plan 2014, page 32).

In the Becoming a Local Carbon Community Action Plan (August 2015) we have committed to an Action Area of Enhancing the Urban Forest and Biodiversity.

As part of the Urban Forest Mapping Project Report for Waitematā we committed $2500 to draw up a tree inventory and to collect data in order to analyse the urban forest layer in the local board area. This work will assist us in assessing the need and timing for the replacement of trees.

In February 2016 the City Centre Masterplan targets were reviewed and revised targets approved by the Auckland Development Committee.  The Local Board supports Outcome 8: An exceptional natural environment and leading environmental performer and the revised target of increasing streets trees in the city centre by 25% by 2021.   

Street trees provide a range of benefits in the urban environment including:[1]

  • Improve pedestrian safety by slowing traffic
  • Good for business by increasing foot traffic in town centres
  • Reduce crime
  • Improve the health and wellbeing of neighbourhoods by increasing the attractiveness and security of walking
  • Reduce the need for drainage infrastructure
  • Provide shade
  • Provide oxygen and sequester carbon

Long live the treesIn the photo left Pohutukawa trees on Great North Road saved from road widening with the support of the Waitematā Local Board for future generations to enjoy.

Auckland Transport is responsible for planting trees in the road corridor on behalf of Auckland Council. The responsibility for the ongoing care and maintenance of streets sits with Auckland Council Parks.

Despite the clear benefits of street trees and the Auckland Council commitment to increase street trees, Auckland Transport doesn’t have a policy to ensure street trees are planted in the urban environment. Auckland Transport also doesn’t have a strategy to meet the City Centre Masterplan street tree target.  The responsibility to consider the addition of street trees is left with individual project managers on a case-by-case basis.

Auckland Transport has confirmed that street trees will only be included in a project if a specific budget is identified for the planting and for the ongoing water/maintenance cost.  If there is no budget for ongoing maintenance (for at least 1 year) Auckland Council Parks will not agree to take on the responsibility for new trees.

Auckland Council Parks have provided the following response:[2]

Parks advocate for the inclusion of new tree assets in the road corridor where private development impacts on public open space and where AT is delivering renewals and streetscape upgrades. However, Parks only plays an advisory role (ie we are asked to comment on designs) in the majority of instances. If council is to deliver positive outcomes at all opportunity Auckland Transport and the consenting arm of council need to incorporate conditions around additional tree planting and which for the following reasons may be difficult to do or will require additional funding:

  • New tree planting in the road corridor or within public open space is not a requirement of private development and there are no rules requiring resource consent applicants to plant anything unless they are seeking approval to remove existing vegetation or regulatory consider there are adverse visual effects from the development that need mitigating
  • Footpath renewal budgets do not come with additional budget to plant new trees.
  • Tree planter boxes, or in ground planters, can only be funded by new projects through CAPEX and Community Facilities only accept them from a maintenance perspective when there are funds put aside for their ongoing maintenance. The same would apply to private development projects in the road corridor / public open space.

Parks will of course continue to advocate, with the relevant stakeholders and partners, for the urban forest and support tree planting wherever it is practical (ie accounting for in ground services, footpath widths, AT design requirements etc), but local board involvement may help provide a more focused approach across the relevant departments / organisations either by escalation or a board workshop to which key officers / managers from Parks (Community Services and Facilities), AT and regulatory are invited.

Currently, the only two funding sources that have been identified to cover the additional consequential opex costs associated with a new street trees (or planters) are either that it is Auckland Transport provided or, if the project was initiated by the Local Board, Locally Driven Initiative (LDI) funded.

The Local Board should not have to fund maintenance costs for new street trees that are associated with non-Board projects. As an Auckland-wide commitment, new street trees  should be funded as an asset from a governing body controlled budget.  

The following examples illustrate the various situations in which Auckland Transport is failing to take up opportunities to plant street trees.

  1. Graham Street footpath renewal
    Graham Street footpath renewal

       Footpath maintenance and footpath renewals

The footpaths on Graham Street were recently renewed on a like-for-like basis following completion of a new development. The Local Board was not informed in advance and no consideration was given to the inclusion of street trees.

  1.    Streetscape upgrades or footpath works associated with private developments

Works associated with the new Countdown development on Williamson Ave included street trees and the closing of Rose Road to create a pedestrian plaza.  Unfortunately, only the street trees on the southern side of Williamson Ave alongside the supermarket were included in the resource consent conditions. With the agreement of Auckland Transport, Countdown contractor re-configured Rose Road with an expanded footpath but no steps were taken to include trees (photo right).

Williamson Ave Rose RoadSince this issue was raised by the Local Board, Auckland Transport agreed in March 2016 to include three new tree pits.   These tree pits will now have to be retrospectively installed into the footpath at Auckland Transport’s expense.

  1. New streetscape upgrades

When Auckland Transport undertook the upgrade of the Scotland Street/College Hill intersection as a safety project, the Local Board requested that the project include a street tree or appropriate greening.

Scotland streetAuckland Transport supported a planter and had funds to pay for it but Auckland Council Parks did not support it because of the lack of funding for the ongoing maintenance.

Auckland Council Parks supported a street tree but Auckland Transport was not willing to include a tree pit in the design because of underground utilities.

Since the photo left was taken two car parks have been reinstated but the Board is still waiting for a resolution with regards to the inclusion of some kind of greening.



[1] Burden, D., Walkable Comunities, Inc., Glatting Jackson. (2006) Urban Street Trees: 22 Benefits, Specific Applications. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/22_benefits_208084_7.pdf

[2] Email from David Barker | Environment and Programmes, Parks, Community Services.

Related reading

Transport benefits of street trees 

In Praise of City Trees – Patrick Reynolds

Monthly Board Report February 2015

This is my first report for 2015 covering highlights from December 2014 and January 2015.

Welcome Queens WharfOpening up the city centre to people

Despite the transport messaging that the Central City was “closed” the streets of Lower Queen St and Quay St were very much full and open to people over Auckland anniversary weekend.

I enjoyed the impressive 3 days of events for Auckland 175th birthday that included the Waitematā Local Board supported International Buskers Festival and the Story of Auckland in Shed 10 (I attended the launch of both). It was great see so many people enjoying the waterfront and finding time to give feedback about improving the city centre.

The weekend really showed the huge potential for improving downtown by re-prioritising road space.

Saving the Pohutukawa 6

I have provided regular updates on the Board’s opposition to Auckland Transport’s proposal to remove 6 mature Pohutukawa trees on Great North Road. The latest update is attached (ATTACHMENT A) following on from the Commissioners decision on 17 December to recommend removal.

Cycling & walking investment

I am really delighted to have been appointed to the Urban Cycling Investment Panel by the Transport Minister on the recommendation of LGNZ.  The launch of the urban cycling programme was held on 30 January 2015 on the old Nelson St motorway off- ramp (ATTACHMENT B). I attended the first meeting of the panel in Wellington on 8 December.

causeway opening group2015 is going to be the year to celebrate new cycling infrastructure in Auckland starting on 20 January when I joined the Albert- Eden community, Cycle Action, David Shearer MP and NZTA to celebrate the opening of the new causeway bridge on the NW cycleway.

The much anticipated and beautifully constructed Westhaven Promenade opened at the end of January. It is perfect for cycling with children in a safe, attractive environment but still needs to be connected to all the way to Silo Park. Auckland Transport announced on 30 January that Westhaven promenade January 2015construction of the final leg of the shared path on Westhaven Drive continuing along Beaumont Street is starting in February with a completion date in March (the shared path is intended as an interim measure).

Over the summer break I enjoyed one of the many cycling adventures now possible in Auckland (ATTACHMENT C)

Speed enforcement

In response to the many unjustified and ill-informed attacks over the summer on the NZ Police in response to speed limit enforcement I decided to write up my personal experience that influences my personal support for the safer systems approach to road safety (ATTACHMENT D). On the positive side I think there is a growing demand for slower speeds especially on residential streets and in the city centre.

Kelmarna Community Gardens

I attended the Kelmarna Community Gardens Trust public meeting on 29 January that gathered people together to reflect on their connections to the garden and to help plan the future now that Framework has withdrawn as a tenant.

It was an incredibly positive, well attended meeting demonstrating a huge amount of support for the gardens to continue as an organic farm with a place for everyone.  The Trust, with the assistance from Council officers, is considering options for managing the gardens going forward.

Everyday is your chance to make this city a little betterPlacemaking

The January Inner City Network meeting was hosted by Waterfront Auckland. Frith Walker gave an excellent presentation on placemaking that inspired the many people who attended to consider what it is possible to achieve in Auckland with clear vision and creativity.

Way finding

Street signage has been a topical local issue over the summer in response to Auckland Transport’s trial new signs on city streets (so far mainly in the Fort St no exitAlbert- Eden area). The Board has not yet been asked to give formal feedback on the design.  In the meantime I continue to push for way finding signage for pedestrians and cyclists on streets that are only NO EXIT for vehicles (such as on Fort St).

I was impressed to see the new way finding signs that have gone up in Myers Park. They are clear and well-designed providing a best practice template for future way finding designs.

Berm planting

At the Board’s December meeting we passed the following resolution in an attempt to progress Auckland Transport’s draft guidelines to encourage responsible plantings on grass verges. In the meantime “happy berms” have appeared over the summer.

Some of the events I attended during December and January

Grey Lynn library cake cuttingThe centenaries of Parnell Pool and the Tepid Baths were celebrated in December and the Grey Lynn Library’s 90th birthday.

Mayoral Reception on the occasion of the Battle of the River Plate 75th anniversary commemoration with the remaining 5 survivors.

The final Citizenship Ceremonies of 2014 were held on 1 December at the Town Hall (I was in the official party for the afternoon ceremony)

Auckland put on a beautiful morning for the Ironman 70.3 on the waterfront. I attended the welcome function on 16 January.

I attended the Breakers game on Friday 23rd January as a guest of the Mayor

It was sad to farewell Chris Davidson at the end of January as the CEO, Parnell Trust but he leaves the Trust in great shape.


Media release: Pohutukawa savers

Sunday 18 January 2015

Pohutukawa Savers to Attend Public Meeting

Pohutukawa Savers will be out in force at the SH16 St Lukes Interchange Upgrade community liaison meeting on Tuesday evening, 20th January, to highlight the imminent threat to six heritage pohutukawa opposite MOTAT, five of which are at least 80 years old.

A growing alliance of concerned residents from all walks of life and from across the region, the Pohutukawa Savers invite key decision-makers from Auckland Transport to front up and listen to community concerns. The meeting will be held at 6pm in the Western Springs Community Garden Hall – ironically, just down the road from the trees the group aims to save.

 Auckland Transport claims the trees must go to make space for its preferred intersection design that creates a second turning lane into St Lukes Road. The Pohutukawa Savers believe the trees can be retained via an improved design that also satisfies traffic requirements. They intend to vigorously appeal Auckland Transport’s decision to the Environment Court.

Pohutukawa Savers spokesperson Jolisa Gracewood says, “These grand old trees are a vital element of the area’s history and living heritage. They were planted in 1934 as part of a continuous avenue of pohutukawa along Great North Road, to beautify the newly created public greenspace as a gift to the citizens of Auckland. As such, they belong to all Aucklanders, and are located on open park land under the responsibility of the Waitematā Local Board.”

“These trees form a spectacular streetscape that welcomes visitors to the Western Springs parks precinct. Trees of this stature are crucial to the urban ecosystem, providing shade, air-filtering and stormwater dispersal, as well as a habitat for native birds. People all over Auckland, and beyond, are aghast at their proposed destruction. The spontaneous joy with which people have decorated the trees since hearing about their possible fate shows how valued they are.”

“Sacrificing these healthy, monumental trees would be a hasty, irreversible loss for little demonstrable gain. We know Auckland Transport has workable alternatives to this ‘either/or scenario’, and we believe that smart design can solve the traffic questions while preserving the historic and visual integrity of the space. We are asking Auckland Transport to recognise the value of these trees to Aucklanders of yesterday, today and tomorrow — and to help create a more liveable city by embracing a 21st century design that saves the trees.”

The meeting will be held on Tuesday 20 January at 6pm at the Western Springs Community Garden Hall, Great North Road. All who wish to support the trees are encouraged to attend.


Jolisa Gracewood ph 027 513 5923

Christine Rose ph 021 056 3784

The Pohutukawa Savers are an alliance of residents, arborists, engineers, lawyers, and tree-lovers. They administer a Facebook page (2425 likes as of 18 January 2015) at www.facebook.com/savethepohutukawa6/, a Twitter account at @pohutukawa6 with 468 followers, and an online petition which has gathered 1912 signatures from across the country (as of 18 Jan 2015): https://www.change.org/p/auckland-transport-save-the-6-pohutukawa-trees-on-the-corner-of-st-lukes-rd-and-great-north-rd

Saving the Pohutukawa 6

Pohutukawa 6

Updated on 26 January 2015

Over the Christmas – New Year break the “Pohutukawa Savers” have been busy drawing attention to the plight of the majestic trees Auckland Transport wants to chop down at 820 Great North Road opposite MOTAT. The Pohutukawa 6 are up against the motorway widening juggernaut but there is still time to save them for the benefit of future generations.

Here is an update on the process so far and what steps are available to put a stop to Auckland Transport’s tree destruction agenda.

Back in August 2013 Auckland Transport’s presented “final” plans to the Waitematā Local Board for widening Great North Road as part of NZTA’s St Lukes interchange project to provide for an additional turning lane onto SH16 via a reconstructed St Lukes bridge. AT’s plans included improved cycling facilities and an Leave these treesextended bus lane but also required the removal of six 80 year old Pohutukawa trees. As the trees are on Auckland Council owned open space land zoned for car parking Auckland Transport needed the Board’s consent to go ahead with the intended works.

After many months of reviewing draft plans and discussing the options with the Board (and our Park’s advisors) Auckland Transport’s army of consultants were confident the Board’s sign off was a mere formality. However the Board remained unconvinced with Auckland Transport’s assessment that the only option was for the road to be widened and the trees removed so we refused to grant consent. I reported on the Board’s position at the time.  

A couple of months later Auckland Transport took a different tack by successfully obtaining resource consent for stage 1 works for a single turning lane from Great North Road on to the new bridge.  As landowners the We heart these trees bannerBoard gave approval for the trees to be pruned so the turning lane could be raised to meet the height of the new bridge-subject to a range of conditions. 

However in Febuary 2014 Auckland Transport informed the Board that instead of going ahead with stage 1 as consented AT intended to seek to vary the resource consent and obtain a Notice of Requirement (NOR) to remove the trees.  The application was publicly notified on 6 June 2014 and 65 submissions were received, the majority of which opposed the removal of the trees (frustratingly due to a clerical error 54 of these submissions were disqualified from the process – an absurd situation that undermined the AT wants to kill ushearing – Jolisa Gracewood has documented the experience here) . The Waitematā Local Board was one of the submitters in opposition to the NOR suggesting an alternative design which would have seen the trees retained without defeating Auckland Transport’s transport objectives.  

A public hearing on the NOR was heard in early November over 2 days.  The Waitematā Local Board engaged its own lawyer (the excellent Nick Whittington from Meredith Connell) and expert witnesses to strongly oppose Auckland Transport’s application at the hearing as outlined in the Board Chair’s  statement.

Auckland Transport's planting schedule
Auckland Transport’s planting schedule

Just before Christmas, Council received  the independent commissioners recommendation unfortunately confirming the NOR as lodged, i.e. with the removal of the trees, with the addition of the landscaping plan (photo right) submitted at the hearing.

Next Steps

  • Auckland Transport formally received Council’s (through the Hearing Panel) recommendation on 18 December 2014 and has 30 working days to make their decision on whether or not they accept the Hearing Panel’s recommendation.   They can now make that decision any time up until 20 February 2015. (For the purposes of the RMA, “working day” does not include the period commencing 20 December to 10 January).
  • Save these treesOnce Auckland Transport advises Council of their decision, Council has 15 working days to advise submitters of the decision.
  • Auckland Council (as the Territorial Authority) and/or the submitters may appeal the decision within 15 working days of receiving notice of Auckland Transport’s (the Requiring Authority’s) decision
  • The appeal period runs for 15 working days from Auckland Council’s notification of Auckland Transport’s decision.
  • AT cannot do any of the works under the NOR (which includes the removal of trees) until such time as the appeal period has ended and any appeals resolved.
  • Once the appeal process has been exhausted and if Auckland Transport has permission to remove the trees, Auckland Transport has to seek land owner consent to enter the land. Auckland Council is the landowner. The Waitematā Local Board are the delegated decision makers. If the Board refuses to give consent AT will then have to use the Public Works Act.  At the Community Group Liaison Meeting on 20 January (reported on by Transport Blog’s Patrick Reynolds) Board Chair Shale Chambers said that he would take the decision to a Board meeting so that there would be another opportunity for public input.

historic photo of GNR PohutukawasThe fight to save the trees

The appeal process is likely to mean that Auckland Transport cannot take any steps to remove the trees until well into the year. In the meantime campaigning is underway to put pressure on Auckland Transport to re-look at the options.

Action Station: use this handy link to send an email to David Warburton, CEO Auckland Transport (over 500 have used it already)

Follow and support the campaign on Facebook (Save the Western Springs Pohutukawa)

The Pohutukawa 6 on Twitter

Auckland Council logo facing the chop by Auckland TransportJoin the campaign:a Pohutukawa Savers group is using Loomio to plan the protest action. The history of the trees is also being collated by Jolisa Gracewood . It looks highly likely the Pohutukawas that form a boulevard along Great North Road were planted deliberately on Arbor Day in 1934 for the enjoyment of future generations as part of the formation of Chamberlain Golf Course


Interview on Checkpoint 17 December

NZTA’s motorway plans affect pohutukawas 

Backyard battler – Patrick Reynolds talks on video about the trees

Pohutukawa tree battle heats up 23 January, Auckland City Harbour News

Brian Rudman’s column 

Push to save 80 year old Pohutukawa trees, 20 January, Radio NZ

Why the Pohutukawa 6 has got people so passionate, 26 January, Transport Blog





Removal of trees on Great North Road for SH16 widening

St lukes intersection Great North RoadI provided this update in my September Board report to our the Waitemata Local Board meeting on 10 September

Auckand Transport and NZTA are seeking the Board’s land owner consent to remove 6 large pohutakawa trees at the intersection of Great North Road and St Lukes Road (opposite MOTAT) to provide for an additional lane for traffic approaching the west bound SH16 onramp.

At an all of Board workshop in August 2013 attended by officials from NZTA, Auckland Transport, Council parks officers and consultants to the project we discussed the reasons for widening the road and the proposed mitigation (the photo shows the trees currently and the same area in 5 years time).

My personal view is that the case for the widening has not been made. The modelling by NZTA and AT suggests the intersection will reach capacity by 2026 with delays of 7 minutes at the peak. However I am not satisfied that they are using the new EEM (economic modelling manual) from NZTA that states default traffic growth assumptions are no longer to be used and real evidence for their predictions must be produced.

“Discontinuation of a default traffic growth rate (travel demand predictions) – The current ‘default’ travel growth rates (1-3%) generally do not accurately reflect the current situation in New Zealand and we are discontinuing these. Funding applications will therefore be required to provide evidence that any assumption of the future growth is realistic.”

It is most likely that the 2026 numbers used to justify destroying the trees are based on an assumption that the traffic is going to grow. There are options available to NZTA and AT to provide the lanes required within the current road width which need to be pursued. The other option is to wait to see if the predictions are correct.

I am also not satisfied with the cycling facilities that have been proposed for the intersection. There are some improvements with an off road shared path across St Lukes bridge however the cycle lanes are not continuous nor safely connected to the existing network.