From: Julie Bevan
Sent: Monday, 16 March 2015 5:02 p.m.
To: GRP AC Resource Consenting – All Resource Consenting
Subject: Information about kauri tree issue last week
Two resource consents were granted by Independent Commissioners for the construction of two houses on adjoining sites in Titirangi. The sites are bush-clad and are zoned Bush Living – which is a residential zoning in the Waitakere section of the District Plan. It is also a Significant Ecological Area under the Unitary Plan and the removal of vegetation and trees for an access way and building platform is provided for within this overlay.
When the consent application involving the section with the kauri tree was processed, the council had communication with the local board and received the opinion of two separate arborists, ecologists, a landscape architect and an engineer. The applicant contacted iwi. Careful consideration was given to a range of options for locating the building platform that would cause the least impact on the bush, and ensuring the shortest driveway to minimise effects, etc.
The final proposal placed the house close to the road, leaving a large area of trees and bush undisturbed at the rear of the section, allowing a “green corridor”along the rear of a number of properties which preserved the habitat of birds and fauna. However, that did mean that a kauri tree closer to the front of the section would need to be cut down. This kauri tree is estimated by several arborists to be approximately 150-200 years old. There is no evidence to support the claim that the tree is 500 years old. There was a thorough assessment of options to retain the tree, but it has a lean on it and if it was left, it would be susceptible to wind effects, and would be so close to the house it would be considered hazardous.
There are two larger kauri trees at the road berm which will be retained, as well as other trees at the rear of the section, including an old Puriri tree.
After having considered all options, council presented its recommendation to an independent commissioner for a decision. The independent commissioner agreed with the council recommendation and the consent was granted subject to strict conditions around construction, including intensive monitoring during the building process.
Another story appeared suggesting that a council staff member presented a report with a different recommendation – the reality is that an initial report, based on limited information presented by the applicant, did have a different recommendation. However, when our landscape architect assessed the comprehensive information given during the consenting process, the recommendation was changed. This recommendation was confirmed by the commissioner.
On Thursday last week, the Auckland Development Committee debated the issue and decided to have an independent review of the process. They wanted to make very clear this was not a revisitation of the decision, but rather a review of the communication process with iwi and Local Boards. The Mayor Len Brown, the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, our COO Dean Kimpton and various councillors explicitly expressed their support of staff and acknowledged that balancing issues of development and environment is frequently challenging.
I would also like to express my support of staff at the Western office, especially our arborist Natalie Marsden, team leaders Matthew Wright and Lee ah Ken, business coordinator Michelle Tomkins and the unit manager David Oakhill. David has spent long hours last week in meetings, media briefings and councillor sessions discussing this consent. He has remained clear, calm and resilient in the face of significant pressure.
Our work often involves challenges and situations where there are differences of view and position. Our role is to carefully work through the relevant plans, processes and procedures in a professional and ethical way.
I thank you all for doing your job and for doing it well.
We will keep you informed as the review gets underway and I know if asked you will assist in any way.