22 Apr 2012

Highway trees felled despite presence of protesters

7:01 pm on 22 April 2012

Contractors have felled all 11 native and exotic trees that protestors were trying to protect in a Whangarei park.

The Transport Agency was granted consent to cut down the trees, which are about 100-years-old, at Mander Park on Western Hills Drive to widen State Highway One.

A protester James Bellamy says all the trees have now come down, and a group of about 40 people left the site on Sunday evening.

He says they feel the Transport Agency has not consulted properly with the community about the trees.

The Transport Agency says the work is essential to widen the road and improve traffic flow on the highway.

Protesters halted the operation on Saturday and about a dozen protesters stayed at the site overnight.

Three were arrested at 2am when they refused to move away - but police say they will not be laying charges.

Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth says the district council and the Transport Agency have followed all the proper processes.

Mr Bellamy says they plan to meet with the council and agency on Monday morning.

The Transport Agency says the work is essential to improve traffic flow on State Highway One.

Western Hills Drive carries about 22,000 - 25,000 vehicles per day and the agency says it needs to be widened.