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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
There is widespread concern within the community that the CEO and the Executive team have not been impartial in this matter.
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.
DOC’s view on tree felling and non-answers to One Tree Hill.
Department of Conservation and TMA
Response to an inquiry relating to felling of trees on Ōwairaka and what is DOC’s view. Note: a long but important document relating to Department of Conservation and TMA: (Redacted document. Published with permission of the addressee gratefully received.)
This is the response to an inquiry relating to the 19 February 2019 Notice of Withdrawal of the application by TMA in the matter between TMA and Council. (Redacted document. Published with permission of the addressee gratefully received.)
Tupuna Maunga Authority extends its area of influence over consents etc.
Time for anyone and everyone living or working within or even near any of these pink zones of Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) control. TMA have given themselves oversight of subdivision, stormwater and wastewater, earthworks, height and other matters that may require resource consent.
For full details, download the details and maps compiled from official Auckland Unitary Plan geomaps overlays.
Here are a few examples:
This is the overall map for Auckland. Check the full document compiled by Tree Advocates (the maps provided by TMA are unhelpfully low in resolution)here.
EVIDENCE OF DR CATE MACINNIS-NG ON BEHALF OF SAVE OUR KAURI TRUST 13th February 2020
Qualifications and experience
I am a plant eco-physiologist and eco-hydrologist and am an Associate Professor at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. I measure and model carbon and water cycling in forests and am particularly interested in the effects of global change processes (like climate change and land use change) on forests and other vegetation.
I received my PhD in 2003 from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). I worked at UTS for seven years as a research fellow researching water use of vegetation in several research groups including the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. I have published 46 peer-reviewed journal articles and I have written nine technical reports.
Since moving to New Zealand in 2010, I have been working on the physiology of kauri. In 2012, I received a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand to study the water use patterns of these iconic trees. In 2014, I was awarded the Early Career Research Excellence Award at the University of Auckland and in 2015, I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
I have been asked by Save Our Kauri Trust to provide an assessment of the impact of the proposed water treatment plant on protected land bordered by Woodlands Park Rd, Manuka Rd Titirangi.
I advise that I have read the Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses contained in the Environment Court Practice Note 2014 and have complied with it in preparing this evidence. I confirm that the issues addressed in this evidence are within my area of expertise and I have not omitted material facts known to me that might alter or detract from my evidence.
In this document, I outline the value of the established ecosystems as an essential part of the landscape and a valuable carbon store. VALUE OF ESTABLISHED FOREST ECOSYSTEMS
Generally, forests provide us with many goods and services that support human life. Forest products include wood and gum (these are often referred to as ecosystem goods). The value of these goods can be easily determined based on market prices.
Ecosystem services are more difficult to value because they are less tangible. Carbon uptake and storage is a good example of a forest ecosystem service. Forests absorb CO2 as they grow and trees store this carbon in their stems, branches, leaves and roots. Forests also play an important role in the water cycle as transpiration is one of the major pathways through which water returns to the atmosphere after rain. Trees are important for flood mitigation because they collect rainfall on their leaves and buffer water flow through the landscape. Tree roots are also important for binding the soil and preventing erosion.
Kauri forests are particularly valuable because they are amongst the most carbon dense forests in the world. A single tree can store vast amounts of carbon and will also use large volumes of water each year.
The trees within the proposed area to be felled are not particularly large but as there are hundreds of trees to be removed, collectively their carbon storage is considerable. Under a climate emergency, all effort should be made to protect established forests for the rich carbon reserves they store both above and below ground.
There are several kauri trees of a relatively young age at the site but as kauridieback is killing hundreds of trees, all individuals should be protected because we don’t know which tree will be the future Tāne Mahuta centuries from now. Ongoing work by one of my PhD students is just beginning to unravel the physiological responses of kauri to kauri dieback disease. Disturbance of the site will likely spread the pathogen due to soil movement by euqipment and hydrological changes due to removal of trees. Established canopy and root systems provide protection of the soil by reducing water reaching the understorey and binding the soil as described below.
During a rainfall event, a large canopy of leaves will capture water until the leaf surfaces have been saturated. This process is known as ‘wetting up’ and it reduces the amount of water reaching the ground because the water stays on the leaves until it evaporates once the rain has cleared. A closed canopy is likely to have a leaf area of 3-4 m of leaves per unit of ground so this surface area has a significant effect on the water cycle.
Detailed measurements of rainfall redistribution in kauri forest by Sangster (1986, unpublished MSc thesis, University of Auckland) showed interception loss was 44% of incoming rainfall. This is consistent with other similar forest types around the world and indicates that only 56% of rainfall reaches the forest floor. Removal of trees therefore increases water input onto the land surface and increases water logging and runoff. More runoff can mean more erosion and more frequent and severe floods in addition to movement of soil, potentially spreading kauri dieback.
Tree roots are also important for binding soil. Where there is complicated topography, established trees are important for stabilisation of any slopes. As a rule of thumb, a tree stores half its biomass above ground and the other half below ground so the root systems of the vegetation proposed to be removed would be very large.
There are several notable larger kauri in the vicinity of the area proposed to be cleared. We are just learning how trees interact below ground through the rhizosphere. In addition to my concerns about soil movement due to earth work equipment and water flow, I am also concerned that the root systems of these trees will be adversely impacted by the vegetation removal. Significant trees need substantial buffers for best protection.
Any proposed biodiversity offset will not be a meaningful replacement in a changing climate. Established forests are better placed to survive drought because they have deep root systems to access deep water stores. Seedlings and saplings do not have adequate root structures to allow them to survive dry periods. Under the current drought conditions, we are seeing restorations plantings completely fail across the city because the deveoping soil moisture deficit is killing sensitive seedlings. As droughts are predicted to become more frequent and severe, we cannot predict if on offset planting will survive to a mature age. Established forest has never been more valuable for the carbon it stores, the water it regulates and it’s ability to survive drought.
Adopt a Tree: an open-air festival in praise of trees, Western Park, Auckland.
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around Your Adopted Tree 18 November 2017
On 18 November 2017, the Urban Tree Alliance (Wendy Gray, Aprilanne Bonar) ran the Adopt-a-Tree community event kicking off the public awareness campaign at Western Park, Auckland.
Supported by Waitematā Local Board and local businesses, the event offered live music, face painting, forest bathing, taiji and yoga classes, tree meditation.
The campaign invites Auckland residents to adopt their favourite tree locally, get to know it, give it a drink particularly in the hot summer months and remind construction workers to be careful around trees.
Free yellow ribbons were handed out on the day for members of the public to tie around their chosen tree.
In the last 4 years (in 2017) one third of Auckland’s urban canopy has been cut down and by 2030, if the status quo exists, there will be no urban tree canopy left in Auckland.
Here are some memories of the festival. We hope to be organising soon. Let us know if you're interested in being involved, or running one events.
Consciousness of trees is to living – as fresh air is to breathing
You can go through your entire life without ever thinking about your breathing. You could be hardly conscious of it even though you breathe every minute of your life. You won’t die on the spot if you stop thinking about your breathing. That’s because your body has amazingly precise and automatic systems for making sure you keep breathing and stay alive.
You can also go through your entire life without ever thinking about trees. You could be hardly conscious of them, even when you walk past them. And you certainly won’t die on the spot if you never ever think about trees! But that’s only because trees are working every daylight minute to give you the stuff that keeps you breathing.
Life in breath
Think what wonderful things become possible once you become fully conscious of breathing. Life is enriched as whole worlds open up. Conscious breathing powers all theatre from singing to acting to dancing to performing music. Without great breathing, sports and martial arts are closed to you. Breathing is also the key to all kinds of mind-body practices like yoga, meditation. You may not think you’re conscious of trees. But on very hot, sunny days do you instinctively enjoy leafy shade when you get under it? Do you duck under a tree’s cover then you’re caught out in a rain bomb? Have you ever noticed that if you’re in a bad mood, a walk under some trees always makes you feel better?
When you become fully tree conscious, something wonderful happens. It’s like suddenly appreciating someone who has always been there for you. They’re there in the background and you don’t see them. Yet you can always rely them. Trees have been in the background – yours, mine, everyone’s – from the first day any of us were born. We kicked the leaves when we were little, We had picnics in their shade. We watched birds flying in and out.
When you become tree conscious, you appreciate how they soften the harsh lines of the city. How they give colour through their leaves and flowers. How the movement of the leaves refreshes your eyes, their rustling provides a soft music that always soothes.
As you become more aware of trees, you remember what you learnt at school. Trees produce a truly vital thing we need to stay alive. Oxygen. Without it, you can’t breathe. Actually, you’d die in seconds. The leaves of trees churn out oxygen every daylight minute of every day – without pause or let up – all year round. A fair-sized mature tree produces roughly enough oxygen to keep a family alive.
Awhi-awhi, a female kauri (Agathis australis) in Waitakeres, on death row operated by a developer.
Air of life
Yes; that means for every tree that is cut down, there is several fewer people the planet can keep alive. At present, the air is on average about 20% oxygen and we can live comfortably with that. But in cities the proportion of oxygen in the air drops to as low as 17% and in crowded indoor space, even less. At around this level, people get irritable, cross, uncomfortable and feel more stressed as levels drop.
Globally, oxygen levels are dropping. But in localities like a forest, oxygen levels can rise to 21% and greater. Little wonder we all feel more chilled out in a forest than in a high street.
But not only do trees produce the oxygen you need to live. Just like appreciating all the quiet things a supportive person does for you, tree consciousness opens up all the invisible services trees render. We enjoy their shade and shelter from the rain. But that shelter also protects the ground: trees soften the eroding effects of rain by retaining vast amounts in the leaves before letting it drip steadily to the ground. Trees control storm water by soaking up thousands of gallons. They break up strong winds and also dissipate noise. Tree leaves also filter the air, collecting dust particles to be washed later by rain.
Then there are the other creatures that share trees with us. We see the most obvious – the birds – but few of us take notice of the insects and small plants that depend on a tree. And we’d do well to pay attention to the massive life underground. Literally massive. As much, if not more, of the biomass of a tree lies underground. And with it all the soil myccorhiza and fungi and bacteria that enable a tree to extract minerals from the soil. An armful of healthy soil could contain 3 kilometres of fungal hyphae or threads that move water and minerals between plans, between trees.
Less than 1mm long, millions of springtails like this Onychiurus keep the soil healthy.
It offers shelter and home to dozens of species of insects which are food for birds, pollinate our flowers, and clean up our environment by eating up our waste. And there will be lichen, fungi and plants growing on the trees. Some you can see, some you won’t spot. But one thing you can guarantee: there’s no such thing as a tree that’s empty of life.
Tree consciousness unwraps a world that you knew only by its superficial coverings.
Tree consciousness deepens your appreciation of the intricate web of all living things, their inter-connectedness, their inter-dependence. Above all, tree consciousness deepens your appreciation of how you – and everything you hold dear – all depend, and depend totally, on trees. Tree consciousness brings you to feel a deep gratitude for all that trees give to us. And that can only enrich your living.
What Mt Roskill would look like if TMA get their way.What Mt Albert/Ōwairaka may look like if TMA remove the splendid Holm Oaks they insist must go.What the football field on Mt Albert/Ōwairaka may look like if TMA remove the 345 trees they insist must go.The kind of view-shaft TMA want to open up.
TMA has failed in its duty under The Reserves Act.
A brief note on the relation of Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) activities to The Reserves Act. And its failures.
1. The Reserves Act 1977 is administered by Department of Conservation. 2. Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014 (Redress Act) refers repeatedly to Reserves Act in Part 2: essentially, it revokes the Act for each maunga, then transfers fee simple to TMA.
3. Redress Act Part 2: Cultural redress: § 17 Statement of Association says: (1) The Crown acknowledges the statements of association of iwi and hapū.(2) However, the statements—(a) must not affect, or be taken into account by, a person exercising a power or performing a function or duty under an enactment or a bylaw made by a local authority under an enactment; and (b) do not affect the lawful rights or legal obligations of any person; and (c) do not grant, create, or affect any interests or rights relating to the lands referred to in the statements.(My emphasis: that’s why we can protest on ‘their’ land.)
4. Subpart 1 goes through the vesting of maunga (other than Maungauika and Rarotonga) for each maunga. 5. In each §, after the fee simple of each is vested in the trustee (TMA), each maunga is “then declared a reserve and classified as a XXX reserve subject to section YY of the Reserves Act 1977.” XXX refers to the reserve being either a a local purpose reserve, historic reserve, or recreation reserve. According type of reserve, different sections apply: respectively 17, 18, 23. Some maunga have more than one type of reserve.(There’s also a clause for easement for Watercare.)
6. The germane bits are: § 17 ‘Recreation reserves’ stipulates: (2) (b) that “every recreation reserve shall be so administered under the appropriate provisions of this Act that … where scenic, historic, archaeological, biological, geological, or other scientific features or indigenous flora or fauna or wildlife are present on the reserve, those features or that flora or fauna or wildlife shall be managed and protected to the extent compatible with the principal or primary purpose of the reserve… and (c) those qualities of the reserve which contribute to the pleasantness, harmony, and cohesion of the natural environment and to the better use and enjoyment of the reserve shall be conserved (d) to the extent compatible with the principal or primary purpose of the reserve, its value as a soil, water, and forest conservation area shall be maintained.”(My emphases.) (Ōwairaka is a recreation reserve) 7. § 18 ‘Historic reserves’ uses essentially the same wordings, adding protections of historical sites. It adds (e) except where the Minister otherwise determines, the indigenous flora and fauna and natural environment shall as far as possible be preserved … (My emphasis.)
8. § 23 ‘Local purpose reserves’ makes similar requirements regarding managing and protecting biological or natural features, conserving forest etc. 9. Note that Maungakiekie northern land and Māngere Mountain are administered lands meaning the Crown owns them, but TMA administers them for purposes of Reserves Act.
10. Whole point is: TMA has failed in its duty and obligations pursuant to § 17, 18, 23 of Reserves Act 1977 in respect of Ōhiuarangi, Mangere Maunga and Maungarei in that TMA has (a) destroyed the pleasantness, harmony and cohesion of the natural environment of these maunga by their indiscriminate and insensitive felling operations, (b) harmed irrevocably the use and enjoyment of the reserves (c) damaged their value as soil, water and forest conservation areas through felling and failure to revegetate(d) destroyed flora, fauna and wildlife through indiscriminate felling of trees and insensitive, polluting planting practices(e) destroyed flora, fauna and wildlife through mismangement allowing unacceptable fire risks to lead to wild fires (f) caused environmental harm by decreasing slope stability, increasing soil erosion and depleting tree cover.
Image by Eric Von Dutch: place-holder pending approval.
“Tiwaiwaka is a collective of people committed to healing the mauri of the whenua.
We bring together our gifts and abilities, matauranga, skills and experience, and networks throughout Aotearoa, many groups and individuals, all committed to realising this vision, each in our own way, regardless of culture, religion, beliefs, history, etc.
It works by sharing this vision and empowering more and people to give it effect. We share a common voice that in time will embrace the whole of Aotearoa.
By following the Principles of Tiwaiwaka we have a way forwards that gives us hope for the future.”
Download, at no cost, Robert (Pa) McGowan’s short but inspiring guide to the way forward: Tiwaiwaka.
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