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.