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Maunga Authority out on a limb over tree removal

Maunga Authority out on a limb over tree removal

Maunga Authority out on a limb over tree removal

Tuesday 12 July, 2022

How much must a decision-maker tell the public about its plans when it goes out to public consultation? Some Auckland residents were shocked to discover that approximately half of the mature trees on Mt Albert were to be felled. A group called Honour the Maunga took the matter to Court.

The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority (the TMA) is responsible for fourteen maunga in Auckland, including Mt Albert/Ōwairaka. It consulted the public on its Integrated Management Plan for these maunga. The consultation documents didn’t mention that TMA planned to remove all of the 345 exotic trees on Ōwairaka as part of a proposed restoration of indigenous biodiversity. The relevant TMA Annual Operational Plan didn’t make this plain either.

The Court of Appeal looked at the Collective Redress Act (which created the TMA) and the Reserves Act. It said that these statutes envisaged that there would be consultation on important aspects of the IMP affecting the future use, management and maintenance of the 14 maunga.

The Court considered that the exotic trees were of considerable significance for Mt Albert and that the TMA was required to consult on their removal. The exotic trees made up approximately half of the mature trees on this maunga, and some had heritage value.

To go ahead with the removal of the exotic trees and restore indigenous species to Ōwairaka, the TMA could have spelled out the intention to remove all of the exotic trees in the Integrated Management Plan. Equally it could have waited and consulted on the removal of the exotic trees as part of the individual management plan for Ōwairaka.

This case demonstrates the importance of putting enough information about what’s proposed in consultation documents so that the public can understand what’s planned and provide their view on it.

This case is also noteworthy for the Court’s refusal to accept that the interests of non-Māori were at odds with the interests of Māori, commenting that everyone benefits from the implementation of legislation designed to provide redress for Treaty breaches.

The Court also determined that:

  • The Reserves Act didn’t oblige the TMA to maintain the exotic trees on the maunga.
  • Auckland Council was wrong to treat the associated resource consent application as non-notified.


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