The Danger to Motions Creek/Waiōrea

a “very significant stream”, an “understated gem”
Wendy Gray to Waitematā Local Board for their Western Springs Forest workshop

Mindful that

  1. Motions Creek/Waiōrea is a taonga to mana whenua and tribes with histories in Tamaki Makaurau that is home to important fauna and flora,
  2. Motions Creek/Waiōrea was left outside the perimeter of the Resource Consent area,
  3. Consultation with mana whenua took place in the absence of key information and senior players therefore reliance on their agreement is unsafe,
  4. The stakeholder responsible for the management and maintenance of Motions Creek/Waiōrea, Healthy Waters, has never been formally consulted,
  5. Council Community Facilities (CCF) have accepted that tree-felling and earthworks on Western Springs Forest will impact Motions Creek/Waiōrea as sediment control measures are planned,
  6. These control measures are based on a dry season scenario,
  7. Council Community Facilities (CCF) plans to start tree-felling operations on 6 April i.e. near the end of earthworks season, leading into Auckland’s wettest months,
  8. The proposed earthworks for the track and landing sites, will destroy a maturing Kauri and other protected maturing native trees which are over 4 metres in height and are therefore ‘protected’ trees,
  9. The houses of stakeholders on West View Road have not been surveyed as required,
  10. Ratepayers are already extremely upset and frustrated from their experiences of tree losses on Mangere Mountain, Ōhuiarangi and at Big Mac, Canal Road, etc. and therefore likely to react very emotionally to a significant tree-felling exercise following on so soon,
  11. The proposed earth stablisation is manifestly inadequate: no plants can be expected to provide significant ground stabilisation within 6 months’ growth over winter,
  12. The risks for an environmental disaster caused by the proposed tree-felling and earthworks is very considerable and irreversible,

    I ask the Board to
  1. Instruct Council Community Facilities (CCF) to delay commencement of works to the beginning of Auckland’s earthworks season i.e. 1 October,
  2. Use the time to survey stakeholder’s houses,
  3. Consult with Healthy Waters to construct measures to ensure there will be absolutely no risk to Motions Creek/Waiōrea as a result of tree-felling and earthworks commencing in October.

    Wendy Gray
Detailed supporting statements and evidence:
  1. The Western Springs Forest is the only functioning 98-year old mixed native and non-native forest it Auckland Central. It has the tallest trees in Auckland Central. The pines were planted in 1923 and is today a prominent landmark (Mike Wilcox 2012)
  2. At the bottom of the Forest is Motions Creek/Waiōrea. Considered by some ecologists who have studied it to be a very significant stream, an “understated gem”, which has never been properly surveyed.
  3. It is beyond doubt that the stream will be affected by Council Community Facilities’(CCF) project to harvest the pines from Western Springs Forest yet the Resource Consent (RC) application boundary was drawn along the north bank of the stream thereby excluding it from consideration in the Resource Consent process.
  4. This means that Council’s proposal was the only matter consulted on with mana whenua.
  5. The stakeholder responsible for the management and maintenance of Motions Creek/Waiōrea is Healthy Waters and as far as I am aware this stakeholder has never been formally consulted because the stream was outside the RC area. I believe that it is beyond doubt that Healthy Waters is a stakeholder who should have been consulted and involved in consideration of the significant potential risks of CCF’s project. Healthy Waters is not included in the stakeholder group which Council has met and is continuing to meet with. This is a major omission now that it has become clear that CCF is proceeding with this risky project outside Council’s earthworks season and without proper soil and erosion advice.
  6. Ridley Dunphy’s report on Soil and Erosion control recommendations and Universal Soil Loss Equation dated 26 February 2021 were prepared for a dry season scenario. We now know the proposal is to undertake this risky project during the wet season.
  7. Because the slope which the pines are on is directly above the stream rainfall will dislodge loose material that will flow directly into Motions Creek/Waiōrea.
  8. Over the last 8-10 years it is believed that sediment has been building up in Motions Creek/Waiōrea. This is already damaging for the biodiversity present in the stream.
  9. Motions Creek/Waiōrea has never been surveyed nor has the potential risks, and possible consequences of this project to this stream, and its biodiversity, ever been considered by CCF and those mana whenua tribes CCF and WLB have consulted.
  10. Motions Creek/Waiōrea is a precious taonga for mana whenua and the ancient tribes of Tāmaki Makaurau. It is a vital link for the at risk – declining taonga Longfin eel to travel from Western Springs lake to the ocean for its reproductive cycle and for its return to Western Springs Lake.
  11. Collecting together the information that we do have about the flora of Waiōrea; from “A survey of Western Springs” was undertaken by Mike Wilcox and Ben Goodwin published in the Auckland Botanical Society Journal December 2019“.

    Motions Creek flows from the Western Springs lake along a rock- walled channel and then through the Auckland Zoo and Jaggers Bush to the Waitemata Harbour off Meola Road.
    The rock walls have an interesting flora, especially ferns.
    Introduced ferns found here are Cyrtomium falcatum (Fig. 18), Cystopteris fragilis (Fig. 19), tuber ladder fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) and Pteris cretica, together with African club-moss (Selaginella kraussiana).
    Native ferns present are Asplenium oblongifolium, Austroblechnum lanceolatum, Diplazium australe, Doodia mollis, Histiopteris incisa and Hypolepis dicksonioides (Fig. 20).
    Other plants on the creek banks are mistflower (Ageratina riparia), ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis), Mexican daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), galinsoga (Galinsoga quadriradiata), tree daisy (Dahlia excelsa) – a large clump, Geranium gardneri, G. homeanum, G. purpureum, creeping mallow (Modiola caroliniana), grey sedge (Carex divulsa), Juncus usitatus, Natal lily (Crinum moorei), Setaria palmifolia, Ehrharta erecta, Cestrum nocturnum, Polygonum capitatum, hemlock (Conium maculatum), Artemisia verlotiorum, tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) and Japanese walnut.
    Aquatic plants recorded from the edge of the stream or submerged are Glossostigma elatinoides, Isolepis inundata, Myriophyllum propinquum, and the moss Leptodictyon riparium
    The principal aquatic mosses in Western Springs and Motions Creek are (nationally endangered) Fissidens berteroi, F. leptocladus, F. ridiulus and Leptodictyon riparium (Fig 29)
  1. The Fauna that was seen in the Waiōrea is known to include: common bully, at risk – declining torrentfish (which only occur in Waiōrea and Oakley Creek), at risk –declining longfin eel, at risk -declining Inanga galaxiae , short fin eels, smelt.
  2. This list is not exhaustive but it gives you a flavour of why this stream is considered to be a “very significant stream”, an “understated gem”.
  3. The consultation that took place with mana whenua throughout the RC process and, prior to WLB’s decision taken on 3 November 20, at the hastily called meeting on 29 October 2020, did not include any information about Waiōrea. This was a significant omission.
  4. The recent Ridley Dunphy report for soil and erosion control fails to address the issue of stability of the slope, when will the slope be stable? This is important because the last Category 2 storm in Auckland happened in April 2018. To start this project in April is extremely risky for Waiōrea when the controls rely entirely on human judgment of Treescape who are arborists not soil and erosion control specialists.
  5. I take issue with Ridley Dunphy’s claims that the soil and erosion controls can be removed 6 to 12 months “following completion of the harvesting operation”. Here is my submission from the RC application:
    5.22 There is a “window of vulnerability” which Pinus radiata forest scientists have studied. As set out in The Listener Article May 12-18 2018, Attachment 9 page 21, The Pine Problem at page 24, “On clear-felled slopes, the roots of Pinus radiata hold the soil for the first year after harvest, but then quickly rot. Peter Weir, a hydrologist and slope-stability specialist who is president of the Forest Owners Association, says “Between year two and year six [harvested slopes} are highly vulnerable”. 
    Foresters typically replant a new crop of radiata seedlings within a year of harvest, but Weir says these “do nothing” to hold the soil for the first couple of years. By year three to four, their roots are getting established, and by year five to six, they are “doing a pretty good job”.
    But, clear-felling has a second effect on the soil. Weir says about a third of rainfall is intercepted by the canopy of mature forest and evaporates rather rather than reaching the ground. But clear-felling removes that protection: the soil is wetter and more prone to slips in heavy rain.
    “So harvesting triggers a process that, through time, makes the slope more vulnerable if a severe storm comes along.”
    On flatter land, the risks are minimal. But…. on steep land…., once cleared by harvest, is liable to shed mud and debris flows during storms.”
  6. I also spoke to Peter Weir who told me that if natives are planted it takes longer, up to 10 years plus for the slope to stabilise.
  7. This has huge risk implications for Waiōrea and clearly CCF has failed to do all it can to ensure that the risks of this project are known and considered by all stakeholders.
  8. Having been told throughout the RC process that the hillside will be replanted immediately after the works. There is a suggestion in the Ridley Dunphy report at p.22? that this “may” happen. Not that it “will” happen.
  9. This CCF project is unnecessarily invasive demonstrating a problem with ecological literacy of CCF.
  10. I ask that the WLB consider delaying this project until AC’s dry season next year. The risk to Waiōrea has not been assessed, nor considered with mana whenua, and WLB have not been given the necessary information for them to be able to assess the risks of undertaking this project in AC’s wet season.
  11. On 3 November 2020 2 members of the WLB gave the reasons for their decision was because, “mana whenua supported CCF’s project”, I submit it would be unsafe for WLB to allow CCF to proceed with this harvesting project this wet season and that it should be delayed for 7 months until the dry season after 1 October 2021.
  12. WLB can in the meantime make sure that mana whenua are properly consulted on the possible risks to Waiōrea, the taonga at risk – declining longfin eel and other native species present in this taonga waterway.

Western Springs Forest documents

Documents 30 March 2021

One week before works are due to start, Council sends out the ‘approved’ documents.

3421c AK Western Springs Bat Survey_22-3-21

LUC60321424 C9 Eclogical Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C13 Construction Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C16 Land Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C17 Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C18A Construction Traffic Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C26 Lizard Management Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 C38 Specification of Works – Approved

LUC60321424 C38A Geotech Report – Approved

LUC60321424 Erosion and Sediment Control Plan – Approved

LUC60321424 Overall Site Plan Rev D – Approved

LUC60321424 Treescape Methodology 19.03.21 – Approved

Documents March 2021

Ecological Management Plan for the Proposed Removal of Pines at Western Springs Park

Lizard Management Plan or Pine Removal at Western Springs Park

Overall Site Plan 21159-L101-C

Updated Geotechnical Investigation Report

Western Springs – Treescape Methodology Final

Western Springs Pine Clearance – Erosion and Sediment control Plan

Consent Order ENV-2019-AKL-000104 Society for the Protection of Western Springs Forest Inc 2736092 & Gael Baldock v Auckland Council

Statement of Attributes – TreeScape

WTM_20200317_ATT_9819_DOCSforMEETING (fire service)

WTM_20201103_MIN_10361_EXTRA (open minutes Waitematā Local Board meeting 3 November 2020)


Documents relating Western Springs Forest that have been recently released in response to LGOIMA requests.

Click on the title to download. You can set your browser to open the file in a window if you don’t wish to download.

List of documents to provide with the brief

Applications completed July2019-June2020

Memorandum 30Oct2020 – extra documentation (002)

Rien Visser 31 October 2020 Email

WESTERN_SPRINGS_PINES_COST_2020_10_20_V2


If you wish to make observations or have more information for us please comment below. If any links are broken, please notify using the form too. Thanks.

The Conversation in Big Mac

Caleb’s recording of night of 11 February 2021

The following is an audio track from a video recording that Caleb Azor made of a conversation in the middle of the night while he occupied Big Mac. The loudness has been RMS equalised so that hardly audible speech is easier to hear.

The conversation lasts over 13 minutes. In the section up to about 6 minutes you can hear Ockham personnel below his position trying to keep Caleb awake. Then he is startled by a call from someone who has climbed up to his position (leading to more than 6 secs of fumbling). Notice a chainsaw starting up at 9:41sec. You might like to pay really close attention from about 11 min.

Caleb is a model of politeness, patience, caution and quiet passion and speaks with remarkable clarity and calm. The recording breaks off because he decides he needs to make a call to get help.

Conversation in Big Mac 11 Feb 2021

The audio file was extracted from the video as that showed mostly black and ghostly figures. If you wish to see the original video with original sound, please check this link to YouTube.

Documents re Big Mac

These are documents delivered in response to requests for information that were dealt with under LGOIMA 1987 and are therefore presumed to be freely available to the public.

Click on the title to download. You can set your browser to open the file in a window if you don’t wish to download.

The following is a highly revealing document written by senior executives to Whau Local Board: Memo to Whau Local Board Chairperson

Note also the letter from Mark Todd, Managing Director of Ockham Residential, also below.


Documents relating to the consent decision

LGOIMA response 10 Feb 2021

Consent Decision with Conditions

Letter from Mark Todd_attachment withheld

Report from GreensceneNZ

Memo from GreensceneNZ

Email from GreensceneNZ_Redacted

Letter from the Tree Council_Redacted

Email from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei_Redacted

Record-of-decision-for-removal-of-Notable-macrocarpa-tree-final_23_dec20-004_Redacted-Signed

Arboricultural report Appendix K

LUC60361479 Notification Decision

Brush 0ffs from Council and request for reasons

Email re LGOIMA 10 Feb 2021

Response from Mayor to 1st letter 17 Feb 21

WG email requesting reasons for failure to produce all docs 10 Feb 21

Related policy documents

Council’s Tree Owner Approval Guide

Auckland Council Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy

Combined Chief Executive Delegation Register


Any breach of confidence or infringement of copyright is inadvertent. In case of error please contact treeadvocates.com for rectification.

Formal complaints to Mayor Goff re Big Mac

Follow-up letter of 17 Feb first, original letter of 10 Feb below

17 February 2021

Dear Mr Mayor

We refer to our open letter to you dated Wednesday 10 February 2021.

This letter provides crucial new information to support our contentions in that letter with respect to the CEO of Auckland Council, James Stabback, and members of his executive team.

In addition, this new information implicates not only Panuku Development Auckland but also Auckland Council in what appears to be a deliberate circumvention of the Resource Management Act and it’s consenting process.

The new information is:

1.              In the early morning of Friday 12 February, Caleb Azor (the lone protestor occupying “Big Mac”), was surprised by the sudden appearance near his position in the tree of William Deihl, Executive Director of Ockham Construction.  We note that there is a health and safety complaint currently with police regarding this behaviour by Mr Deihl.

2.              During the conversation, which was recorded by Caleb on his mobile phone, (Mr Diehl makes it clear he is aware Caleb is holding his phone) Mr Deihl makes the following claim:

“…We got sold this land on the proviso that these trees weren’t going to be here…”

3.              This is a clear admission that the developers, Ockham/Marutūahu, had a contractual commitment provided to them by someone within Auckland Council with the authority to provide such a commitment.

This raises a number of serious issues:

1.              It would seem that the decision taken by CEO James Stabback and his Executive Team to permit the removal of Big Mac was a foregone conclusion, predicated on the irregular agreement that Ockham-Marutuahu claim to have made with Auckland Council. 

2.              This is a clear circumvention of Auckland Council’s democratic processes, compromises the Whau Local Board delegated authority, and compromises Auckland Council’s own expert staff.

3.              Auckland Council is required to consult with iwi in good faith.  Ngati Whatua Orakei are on record as having opposed the circumvention of the Scheduled Tree Register by this Resource Consent application and Tree Owner approval process.  It is now clear that consultation with iwi was not conducted in good faith, because an agreement had already been reached that the developers could remove the tree.

4.              The Ockham Residential website includes the following statement dated 12 February 2021:

“Ockham and Marutūahu were invited by Panuku Development Auckland (backed by the Whau Local Board and Auckland Council) to undertake the Aroha project in partnership with HUD.”

This raises questions as to the involvement of representatives of Panuku in assurances made to Ockham/Marutūahu with respect to Big Mac.

We would further note the following with respect to the Whau Local Board:

1.   It has also come to light that some members of the Whau Local Board did not get the memorandum dated 16 December 2020 written by Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan ‘informing’ them of the decision to remove Big Mac that was to be made by staff of Council under delegated authority of Council’s Chief Executive.

2.   It is understood that not all members of the Board were happy to allow Auckland Council staff to take this decision.  This concern would appear to have been well founded.

3.   We also understand that there have been requests from Local Board members to view the letters including threats of legal proceedings that were referred to in CEO James Stabback’s decision.  It appears that these documents are not available to the Local Board and members of the public.  These letters should be made public immediately. Failure to do so would fuel the presumption there is something to hide.

4.   We believe that the decision is a misuse of the CEO’s delegated authority which renders it unsafe and probably invalid.

We have already called into question the Tree Owner approval process in our previous letter.  This further evidence raises more questions as to Council’s bad faith and now the question of dishonesty in public office.

We are also sending this letter to the Minister of Housing, the Minister of Local Government and the Auditor General.

A copy of the recording is available on request.

We look forward to receiving your response to this letter.

Yours sincerely

Wendy Gray and Caleb Azor


10 February 2021

Dear Mr Mayor

We are writing to you as concerned residents and ratepayers of Auckland and as Tree Advocate and Tree Protector.

This is an open letter because of the imminent removal, scheduled for Thursday 11 February 2021, of the Notable Macrocarpa Tree locally known as “Big Mac” located on the corner of Ash Street and Great North Road Avondale.

We are writing to make a formal complaint regarding the conduct of the CEO of Auckland Council, James Stabback, and members of his executive team, with regards to the decision on 23 December 2020, on delegated authority, to grant permission for the removal of this iconic landmark.

The specific conduct alleged in this complaint is as follows:

  1. Failure to follow usual process and making an exception for this developer and his partner by escalating this tree owner approval decision, and the decision-making process, to the Executive Team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan) and to the CEO James Stabback himself.
  2. Failure by the Executive team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) to consider, (do more than note), the opposition to the removal of this tree from the Whau Local Board (the landowner consent authority), and the Tree Council.
  3. Failure to consider (do more than note) the Landscape Architect report (17 December 2020) provided by the Tree Council, disputing claims in the Greenscene report (4 December 2020), relied on by Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback, that the tree is in poor health and to justify their favourable decision.
  4. Failure by the Executive team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) to consider, (do more than note), the opposition to the removal of this tree from Auckland Council’s own Resource Consents Department Arborist and Council’s Senior Heritage Arborist.
  5. Failure by the Executive team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) to consider, (do more than note), the opposition to the removal of this tree from mana whenua Ngati Whatua Orakei, thereby failing to implement the Auckland Plan 2050 to adopt a Maori World view to treasure and protect our natural environment. It is not tikanga to destroy the mauri of this mature locally important Notable tree in the circumstances of this decision.
  6. Council’s commissioning (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) of the Greenscene report in order to discredit (a fair inference given that this was in fact the effect of the obtaining of this report) the advice of their own skilled arborists in order to enable the Executive Team (and therefore James Stabback) to make a decision favourable to the developer.
  7. According to the Tree Owner Approval Guide the aim is to respond to an application within 3 days and the Council will endeavour to process the application within 10 working days. Longer time frames are envisaged for complex applications. The application envisages that the applicant will provide all the information for the approval. In this case, Auckland Council commissioned the Greenscene report and then relied on it not its own skilled arborists? The Guide also sets out the matters to be ‘considered’ by Auckland Council. ‘Consideration’ requires ‘continuous and careful thought, careful weighing of the reasons for and against something’ (Webster). Merely noting something without further comment is not ‘consideration’; it is box-ticking.
  8. Failure by the Executive team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) to properly investigate the developer’s claims. 40% of the trees mass occupies the developer’s site (the greater part 60% being on Council/Whau Local Board land), yet the developer claimed that failure to remove this tree would result in the inability to build 34 of the 117 proposed apartments. On the face of it, this does appear to be overegging the consequences.
  9. Failure by the Executive team (Claudia Wyss and Rod Sheridan and therefore James Stabback) to investigate the developer’s threats of legal action (the primary reason given for allowing the consent) when (a) it was clear from the Resource Consent application that the developer was informed in August and September 2020 that Council arborists were not minded to grant tree owner consent, and (b) that they would also be required to obtain tree owner consent to be able to proceed with the development.
  10. Subsequent to the decision being made, it has come to the attention of the community that there have on-going negotiations between the developers and Mana Rakau, the protest group who are currently occupying a property at Canal Rd, Avondale, and who have also been occupying the site of “Big Mac”.
  11. The community has been informed that these negotiations have involved James Stabback, and the Chair of Panuku, the prior owner of the development property. It is noted that the Chair of Panuku is also Chair of the applicant’s partner in this Aroha development, Hauraki Confederation Marutāūhu. It is also noted that James Stabback was on the group who selected the Chair of Panuku to his position.
  12. There is widespread concern within the community that the CEO and the Executive team have not been impartial in this matter.
  13. Taken together the cumulative effect is that ultimately by his actions in this matter, James Stabback has brought his office and Auckland Council into disrepute.

It, therefore, follows that on the facts this decision is unsafe and the developer and the Chair of Marutāūhu/Panuku should be immediately informed.

You are asked to formally investigate this complaint and report back in an open letter to the news media.

This open letter is also being sent to the appropriate Minister, committees, the Auditor General and the news media.

The public of Auckland are invited to come to the corner of Ash Street and Gt North Road on Thursday 11 February 2020 to protest the failure of Auckland Council to protect Auckland’s most important and valuable Scheduled trees and to protest the killing of the mauri and wairua of this living being that is Big Mac.

Yours sincerely

Wendy Gray & Caleb Azor

This is what remains of the 150-year Notable Tree after 3 hours of chainsaw, with Caleb standing in mourning. Native trees in front of Big Mac have also been destroyed. (Photo courtesy: Big Mac Group)
The tree on 11 February 2o21. (Photo: Rosie KP)