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Care about Protecting our Urban Trees?

Here is some text to send to your MP about the changes to the RMA Legislation.

Kia ora

I am writing to register my concern about the impact that Clause 52 of the proposed Resource Management (Simplifying & Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2009 will have on the urban tree population of New Zealand.

I request that you delete Clause 52 from the proposed Resource Management (Simplifying & Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2009 altogether, retain the existing tree protection provisions and seek to meaningfully engage with local communities in respect of any modifications of existing tree protection rules.

This proposal has the potential to decimate the trees that make our cities the special places that they are. Pohutakawa, kauri and all the other beautiful icons that live only in New Zealand are already under threat. Changing the law so that anyone with a chainsaw can chop them down with impunity is at best irresponsible and may, in future generations, be deemed criminal.

It is a myth that the current rules are both costly and restrictive to private property owners. Under the current rules it costs nothing to obtain a consent to fell a tree – Councils do not charge for consent, and advice from Council arborists is also free. In addition, over 85% of all current applications for tree felling are granted. We all agree the tree rules need to be reviewed; removing the blanket protection is not the answer. There will be far more problems and cost than savings.
What is being proposed will have a massive impact on property owners since neighbours will be able to fell trees with impunity. In many areas of New Zealand this will cause major landslips, damaging property and roads. We already suffer greatly from instability due to the steep clay slopes – removal of trees will have an incalculable cost to us all. There will be many houses that will simply collapse if the trees protecting the banks that they stand on are removed. Landslips are increasing. The effect of removing any conscious conservation of trees may well be devastating. Trees removal is a major cause of land instability.

Trees also are vital in attenuating stormwater. Covering the land in concrete & roofs increase runoff – each tree attenuates 17 cubic metres of water per year. Wholesale removal of trees in our suburbs will significantly generate flooding which will then require infrastructure upgrading. Climate change is also increasingly affecting our weather, with northern NZ becoming wetter. Sanity suggests we plant more trees, not make it easier for people to cut them down.

Removing the tree protection rules will result in massive tree loss. Not only will people cut down more trees, but when development occurs there will be no requirement to undertake mitigation planting, as is currently the case. Not only will we lose currently mature trees, we will not be replacing them. We do not know the economic cost to society of all this, and we need to.

As an example of one disastrous effect, in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area local people campaigned for 35 years to get a special law to protect such a special place in perpetuity from inappropriate development and land clearance. The proposed law change will effectively castrate the Heritage Area Act, making protection of the very values that are its purpose impossible. People come to Titirangi because of the trees. It is ludicrous to suggest that the Council could schedule the hundreds of thousands of trees in Titirangi to protect them – if people are allowed to chop trees down, Titirangi will be destroyed.

What right do we have to destroy trees that are 100s of years old just because people don’t want to clear their gutters out or they’d like to have a better view. We are all just passing through our properties and if individuals don’t have the personal responsibility to recognise their role as guardians of the land then that needs to be legislated for.

Unfortunately we all know that this is the case with so many people who only have a short term view of the world. If you pass this law the chainsaws will be out the very next day and we will all suffer the consequences for generations to come. Our birds and insects will disappear, our cool and shade will be gone. We will have nothing to remove our pollution and CO2, or treat our stormwater and hold our soil together.

I ask you to find the courage and wisdom to see the stupidity of this law change and to protect the trees for generations to come. No one is saying the tree rules don’t need to be reviewed – everyone knows that – but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and destroy our urban forest by removing the basic protection. When it’s gone it will be forever, this is one mistake that cannot be put right.

Please use your vote to remove Clause 52 entirely or at least vote for one of the amendments and save our trees.

Thanks for your time