Push to save 80-year-old pōhutukawa trees

5:52 am on 20 January 2015

A group protesting against plans to destroy 80-year-old pōhutukawa trees in central Auckland is urging people to voice their concerns at a public meeting tonight.

The six threatened pōhutukawa trees opposite the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs to widen Great North Road.

The six threatened pōhutukawa trees opposite the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs. Photo: Supplied

The Pōhutukawa Savers, made up of people from across the rohe including mana whenua, said the trees' fate was hanging in the balance.

Council agency Auckland Transport wants to remove the six trees opposite the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs to widen Great North Road.

Planning commissioners have concluded that, on balance, the roadworks around the St Lukes Road motorway interchange required the land on which the trees sit to be taken.

The decision was also a blow to the Waitematā Local Board which had led efforts to save the trees.

An Auckland Transport spokesperson said it would not have supported the application to remove the six trees from Great North Road if there had been any other viable option, but all engineering experts agreed that there was not.

But a spokesperson for the Pōhutukawa Savers Jolisa Gracewood said roads could be built around them and the trees should be treasured.

"We have the lake which is full of tuna (eels), we have this beautiful green space which is sliced through by motorways at the moment.

"Anything we can do to preserve the spirit, the mauri of that place, will be a positive thing in terms of keeping it a place that people want to be in and want to take care of. The trees themselves are like guardians along that road and we can help by being their guardians as well."

Ms Gracewood said there was growing support to retain the trees as people became more aware of the issue.

Pōhutukawa Savers protest in front of the threatened pōhutukawa trees opposite the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs.

Pōhutukawa Savers protest in front of the threatened pōhutukawa trees opposite the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs. Photo: @ByTheMotorway

She said Auckland Transport did have has plenty of options and could be more flexible as to how they apportion the space for travel in the morning and evening.

"Auckland Transport's plan has a built-in redundancy plan so they're designing around the worst-possible scenario for in 20 years time, but why do they need to do that when who knows what the traffic projections are for then? As the agency says itself, it's hoping for a bigger uptake of public transport and cycling so you don't necessarily need all those extra lanes for car traffic."

Auckland Transport's Chief Development Officer Greg Edmonds said the proposed works would help the entire Waterview, State Highway 16 and State Highway 20 complex operate to its full potential, which would also help reduce Auckland's congestion and encourage alternative transport methods.

"We regret that the trees will be lost, but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended bus lane and bus priority measures in Great North Road.

Mr Edmonds said the New Zealand Transport Agency would replace the trees with Pōhutukawa planted on adjoining land.

He said the next steps would be for the agency's Group Manager Property to review the Commissioners' formal recommendations at the end of January and, if in agreement, then request Auckland Council to issue a Consent under the Resource Management Act.

Tonight's hui will be held at the Western Springs Community Garden Hall at 6pm.

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