Do Aucklanders value their trees?

If the Auckland Council’s Urban Tree Strategy is anything to go by, the answer is ‘Not very much’.

According to the Council’s valuation, the trees of Auckland are worth $11.4 million. Sounds like a lot? Divide it by the number of trees – 4.64 million – and the average value wouldn’t be enough to buy a cup of coffee.

Auckland Council says the average urban tree is worth only $2.53 per annum.

“It’s no wonder developers and Auckland Transport destroy trees without hesitation’ comments Wendy Gray, Tree Advocate. She adds: ’And note that the figures are based on 18% cover as of 2013. The Tree Council’s surveys shows a slaughter of a third of our trees in four years. So we have less than 12% cover.

Wendy Gray turned to an example close to many people’s hearts. ‘When you have a full head of hair, you don’t mind losing a few.

when you’re balding, every hair counts!

But when you’re balding, every hair counts! With 88% uncovered, we’re nearly completely bald!’

Auckland’s Urban Tree Strategy, presented to AC’s Environment and Community meeting on 5 December 2017, lists over thirty different benefits of trees in the urban environment. These include the obvious such as carbon sequestration, removal of carbon dioxide and habitat enrichment. It also notes the less obvious such as ‘Employees with views of trees more productive’ and ‘Improved retail performance’.

Without explanation, Auckland Council calculates the value of only four benefits: Air pollution removal,  Energy savings, Carbon sequestration, Avoided Stormwater runoff1.

Other cities

Wendy Gray comments ‘AC’s figures are completely out of line with other cities. Adelaide values its trees at $188 each2, Melbourne at $9283. And London’s valuation is a comparable $10204.’

Other cities value their trees for multiple benefits. but Auckland calculates a mere four. Other cities recognise the capital value of trees for their amenity services. For example, London’s 2013 project ‘Valuing London’s Urban Forest’ put the capital value of its trees at over GBP 43 billion ($81 billion)! Auckland does not even count one cent’s worth.

Wendy Gray comments ‘I think Aucklanders would be shocked to learn that their elected Council values our trees so pitifully low. A $2.53 average means than even a magnificent, veteran tree that everyone loves may be worth less than $10 per annum. That can’t be right.’

‘The result is wholesale slaughter of trees in our beautiful city. And there are signs it’s accelerating. Auckland’s urban trees are in crisis: there are now so few, every loss counts.’

‘The result is wholesale slaughter of trees in our beautiful city. And there are signs it’s accelerating. Auckland’s urban trees are in crisis: there are now so few, every loss counts.’

‘We’ve got to stop the slaughter. What’s the point of planting a million new trees when we’re cutting down millions of old, established trees? We need a moratorium. We’ve got to take stock. And we have to educate everyone – and that’s from Council to individual Aucklanders; But we’ve got to stop cutting down trees. Now.’

References:

Auckland Council Environment and Community Committee Agenda paper 5 December 2017

The Economic Value Of Trees In Urban Areas: Estimating The Benefits Of Adelaide’s Street Trees

Urban Trees: Worth More Than They Cost

Valuing London’s Urban Forest

Adapted from a press release issued in April 2018

Unnecessary destruction of tree during stormwater works.
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