Letter to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority 7 June 2019

to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority

Paul Majurey- paul.majurey@ahmlaw.nz Cr Alf Filipaina – alf.filipaina@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Cr Josephine Bartley – josephine.bartley@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Cr Dr Cathy Casey – cathy.casey@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Glenda Fryer – glenda.fryer@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Kit Parkinson – kit.parkinson@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Malcolm Paterson – Joe Pihema – Hauāuru Rawiri – Lemaunga Lydia Sosone – lemauga.sosene@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Josie Smith – josie@tekotuku.co.nz Karen Wilson – Stefan Corbett – stefan.corbett@mpi.govt.nz Michelle Judge – michelle.judge@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

7 June 2019

Manawa mai te mauri nuku
Manawa mai te mauri rangi
Ko te mauri kai au he mauri tipua
Ka pakaru mai po
Tau mai te mauri!
Haumi e, hui e, taike e!

Dear Chair, Deputy Chair and Members,

Under your standing orders I have asked to speak to you at your Hui on Friday 7 June 2019. Mr Majurey would not let me speak for reasons outside your standing orders. This failure to follow your standing orders is an abuse of, and undemocratic to, residents of Auckland who have a valid interest in your work.

In the circumstances I am writing to all members, personally, I have asked Michelle Judge to forward this correspondence to you. This letter is also being circulated to the news media.

I wish to speak to you on behalf of those who have no voice in your decision-making, the standing people, the children of Tane and Papatūānuku, and in my capacity as Tree Advocate.

Caleb Azor

I have asked Caleb Azor, whom you met at the last Hui, to provide a statement to you. It seemed to me that you did not ‘see’ him when he spoke to you last time. Certainly you did not hear him. He has an important message to deliver to you as many young people today are doing. It is up to us adults to see him and hear what he has to say.

This young man who loves Ōhuiarangi, spoke to Nick Turoa numerous times trying to save the mature exotic protected trees from destruction in April when they were destroyed by Treescape/Vector. Many trees he had personal relationships with. During that process, after chasing for a number of days, Nick Turoa admitted to him that the trees on the outside of the Maunga did not have to be cut down but it was too late because Treescape/Vector had completed the contract in 12 days instead of 20 and had already cut them down!

This was devastating for Caleb, the total unnecessary destruction of life that was a large part of his life and community. It is difficult to understand the  TMA claims to protect the ‘living Maunga’ and to your claimed role of kaitiaki. Talking to him you can tell he is still in shock.

I ask you to read his message attached “Tangata whenua could ‘adopt’ mature exotic trees as their own – adoption is a way to make the Other one of us and remove the offence of their presence. The gifts trees give to us and the environment surely warrant this. There is a precedent to do this, it seems to me, in the generous spirit of manaakitanga, welcoming and acceptance.”

The IMP recognises that it is important to “facilitate the sense of living connection, identity and guardianship over the maunga felt by neighbours and surrounding communities and support those communities to be engaged with the maunga and active in its protection, restoration and enhancement” (p74).

The Tupuna Maunga Authority also holds the Maunga of Auckland in trust for the common benefit of the other people of Auckland too. Those of you who do not live next to these Maunga do not understand the daily pain of looking at spaces where beloved trees used to stand. These communities deserve more than 6 days’ notice of your plans. There is a dreadful lack of balance in what you are doing.

Concerns we wish to raise

We are all deeply alarmed about the negative consequences of your flawed programme of works to destroy the mature protected exotic trees on Auckland’s volcanoes and all areas where you have influence and control.

We are deeply concerned that you appear to be ignoring all the dire warnings from the Government stock-take Environment Aotearoa 2019 Report, reports from NIWA as well as the UN Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. We are deeply disturbed that whatever short-term gains you imagine you are achieving will cause long-term, widespread loss to future generations and Auckland’s fragile biodiversity.

Climate change, environmental and biodiversity impacts of TMA activities

The cumulative environmental consequences of your agenda, what ever it might be, is having devastating consequences on the climate management and biodiversity of Auckland and its environment.  In April 2019 the Environment Aotearoa Report 2019 was published. This was the time you were clear-felling the mature exotic protected trees on Mangere, Ōhuiarangi. Forest & Bird’s chief executive, Kevin Hague said of the assessment of the environment’s overall health, ‘things are very bad’.   Auckland’s climate is changing. Auckland Council is not reacting fast enough, its current policies are making the problem worse. This last term of local government has seen massive loss of urban forest, (mostly our valuable large mature exotic trees), at least one third, likely more. Council is a ‘significent player’ in the loss of protected trees.

The Tupuna Maunga Authority is a major player in changing Auckland’s climate. Every time you destroy the mature exotic trees on Auckland’s volcanoes, you destroy a microclimate that is feeding into Auckland’s macroclimate. You are changing Auckland’s climate tree by tree.

These trees manage and modulate our climate. 100-year old trees are transpiring over 1000 litres of water a day. When you have 100 of them on a mountain like Mangere or Ōhuiarangi they create a significant microclimate. Now they are gone the volcano will dry out, be subject to wind, stormwater run-off and heavy weather events leading to increased temperatures, soil instability and erosion.

I have been told that this is already happening on Ōhuiarangi. Areas which I understand are important to your cultural values are degrading fast with the increase in wind and stormwater run off that the trees, now destroyed, used to protect the area from.

Originally planted for rehabilitation

These mature exotic trees were originally planted to re-habilitate this land. We have all seen the pictures of Auckland completely denuded of trees. They were planted because they grow faster than natives and serve well, their function ,and our need, to make soil and stabilise the land.

Currently they form Auckland’s urban forest overstorey. The trees whose crowns form the highest layer of our urban canopy and whose job it is to nurture the younger understorey trees and ngahere. Many of these exotic trees grow unusually large in New Zealand, Papatuanuku and Tane nurture these trees. The atua do not discriminate like we do.

Loss of Overstorey loss Habitat

These trees are also habitat both above and below ground for Auckland’s endemic, migratory and non-native biodiversity. What happens to the biodiversity that is living on these 100s of overstorey trees when you cut them down? Did you even ask the question?

The gums on Ōhuiarangi, did you check for bats?

Auckland’s forest canopy is shrinking fast, where will the biodiversity go? Replanting the scrub and bush you propose, is not mitigation. It is a long-term plan, but you have destroyed the overstorey which nurtures the understorey. You have destroyed Mother Nature’s balanced framework and process. Lack of moisture will be a future problem.

You can only ‘replace’ a 100 year old tree with a 100-year old tree because of what that tree is doing.

I understand that your replanting schemes do not intend to replace the 100s of valuable healthy mature trees you are destroying. The majority of the plantings will be grasses and flaxes. At Western Springs Forest we have an example of what is currently happening across Auckland. This is a 90+ year old exotic pine forest overstorey SEA that is transitioning to a native forest which is currently the understorey. For this reason this forest is very valuable for study and teaching purposes. But like you Council has plans to destroy it and mitigate with a long-term plan of planting. This will not ‘mitigate’ the current values of the SEA for 90 years.

This Forest is another microclimate that Council is  planning to destroy which will have the direct consequence of heating the local area and the CBD of Auckland, which it currently cools. Not to mention all the other associated problems with removing a 90 year old forest.


The ‘preferred contractors’ of Council Community Facilities lack the skills to manage Auckland’s green resources. Some Council employees responsible for Treescape/Vector are revolving door appointments who do not have the necessary arboricultural skills. Their advice and that of ‘preferred contractors’ and ‘preferred experts’ is leading to unnecessary destruction of Auckland’s very valuable exotic mature ‘protected’ trees rather than what used to happen, tree management.

We want a public audit of Council Community Facilities tree management. Claims that replanting is ‘mitigation’ are wrong. You cannot replace the amenity value of these trees, the ecosystem services and climate management they are providing, during the 30 -50 years it takes a sapling to reach maturity. Latest science tells us that the older the tree the bigger the carbon sequester.

Many people in Council have been taken in by these opportunists.


The guiding cultural value of Kaitiakitanga is, very generally, the concept of living in guardianship with each other and the environment. It is an ancient and constantly developing Maori cultural value. It is large in scope and
encompasses all facets of life on earth. It is a way of living, a belief system that informs us how to live in harmony and balance with Mother Earth. It is not one set of beliefs but many which evolve from tribe to tribe and from decade to decade.

This is not a fixed value.

Resource Consents

I have unsuccessfully been trying to obtain copies of TMA non-notified resource consents and supporting  documents. I have already complained to the Ombudsman about Council’s failure to provide me with what should be
publically available documentation.

I have also written to Nick Turoa as he suggested when I mentioned it to him at the last Hui and have received no response to my letter, despite his assurances. Democracy services tells me I will receive a letter from him but to date this has not been forthcoming. Why are your non-notified resource consents and supporting documentation not publicly available?

Your RC applications should be notified because of the huge impact and consequences to the environment, biodiversity and the health of local communities, of your clearances of ‘protected’ trees and microclimate destruction. All of which is more than minor.

I believe your RC applications may be non-compliant and open to challenge. Could you please notify me of all of your resource consents because I have a special interest in them. Please copy me with your applications and
supporting documentation.

The Man of Trees Richard St Barbe Baker said “The forester of the future will be sensitive to the needs, not only of his trees, but of the earth itself. We must all become tree-conscious and earth-conscious”(p.132 The Land of Tane)


By ‘adopt the trees’ we mean that we embrace them as whānau.
They are family.
Our family.
They are children of Tane.
Brought up, nourished by Papatūāunuku.
Received light from Rangi, and turned that light into the breath of our life.
Tihei mauri ora!
Tauhou or not, they have been with us for hundreds of years.
All that time, and right now they provide for us, shelter us, shade us, they sustain life
all around them.
Our children play under them, rest under them.
They have been here longer than any of us, tangata or not.
They knew our tūpuna, indeed they provided for them, sheltered them, shaded
them and sustained them.
Your tūpuna also played under these tane.
If anyone is mana whenua around here, it is the trees.
How can we treat them as kai nā te ahi?
So embrace them.
They are whānau.
Adopt them.
They deserve our protection.
Tihei mauri ora!

Yours sincerely
Wendy Gray
Email: wendzgray@orcon.net.nz
Mobile 021 149 2267

Statement of Caleb Azor

My name is Caleb Azor. I live across the road from Ōhuiarangi/Pigeon Mountain, one of the  maunga/mountains the Tupuna Maunga Authority are in control of, and knew and loved it and it's trees my whole life. Ōhuiarangi and many of the places there were special places to me and my family, and we felt a connection to them. I respect the trees as expressions of life that in many cases have existed before me and will outlive me, always giving to the environment (unlike us humans) and this regardless of whether they are native or exotic. The Tupuna Maunga Authority has a
precedent for this in the generous spirit of manaakitanga, welcoming and acceptance. So the devastation at the loss of 120+ trees that you have cut down on Ohiarangi is great.

It has been horrible and painful to lose these trees and the birds that lived in them. I am really heartbroken about the removal of so many trees that I have known and loved my whole life. It has completely changed the places we loved very much for the worse, and the maunga itself is unrecognisable as the beautiful place it was.

But this decision was made a few years ago, and only in the last few months has there been a snowballing sense of urgency regarding the environment and climate change, lead by us tamariki (children) – whose future you are the kaitiaki of. In light of this, removal of thousands of mature trees, carbon storers and air purifiers, must be reconsidered.

Tāngata whenua could ‘adopt’ mature exotic trees as their own – adoption is a way to make the other one of us and remove the offence of their presence. The gifts trees give to us and the environment surely warrant this. There is a precedent to do this, it seems to me, in the generous spirit of manaakitanga, welcoming and acceptance.

Thank You,
Caleb Azor

One thought on “Letter to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority 7 June 2019”

  1. Kia Ora Wendy, devastating to read this, especially in the light of what has happened, and the fate that is planned for all exotic species on the maunga of Tamaki Makaurau, could you please email me, as I have some very urgent questions regarding these documents you have made available, as we are trying to save the trees on Owairaka, and those next in line to be killed. Thank you, Francine

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