Time to Vote!

If you haven’t already, it’s time to flex your electoral muscles and post your vote for the local body elections. Turnout is always low in these elections so your vote is extra important.

We emailed all of the Waitemata Local Board and Council candidates with some background information about the plans for the Western Springs Forest (you can read the full text below) and asked which they supported out of:

A – I support saving the forest by retaining its essential character as a mixed-species forest in natural transition to all-native and oppose current Waitemata Board plans for a single large-scale felling operation.

B – I support the current Waitemata Board’s plans to cut-down all but a tiny remnant of the 218 canopy Monterey Pines in a single operation that will involve bulldozing an access road through the forest, creating five skid sites for log processing, and destroying an estimated 50-75% of the native forest sub-canopy.  

C – I don’t feel sufficiently informed at this point to support either A or B but I am happy to have the Society to present its proposal and expert evidence to me and, if elected, will commit to considering all relevant evidence before making any decisions regarding management proposals for the forest, including the implementation and funding of the current resource consent.  

Independents Gael Baldock, Keith McConnell, Will Maxwell-Steele, and Mike Lee all supported option A which is our Society’s vision for the Western Springs Forest.

“Option A. There are too many instances of issues such as this where all the experts say one thing but Council’s “experts” say something else. It needs to stop!”
Will Maxwell-Steele

“I don’t understand why the WLB would want to kill a native forest, to plant a native forest. However the Chair has said that she wouldn’t mind it as her legacy. I say, “leave it alone! Neither man nor woman can do a better job than ‘Mother Nature’. We can help by management and planting specimen species.”
Gael Baldock

“… my only concern has been that of Health & Safety. So I am fully briefed, can you please send me a copy of the 3 reports that you refer to. Option A.”
Keith McConnell

Others were in general support of (A) or at least were not inclined to (B) but felt they needed a better understanding of the evidence (C) to make a call on it:

“I’m aware of the controversy … although I haven’t immersed myself in the detail. Statement A would best align with my views subject to seeing the expert evidence referred to in C.”
Allan Matson

The Communities and Residents team (Genevieve Brown, Roger Burton, Amy Calway, Josh Doubtfire, Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, Greg Moyle and Sarah Trotman) said:

“Thanks for contacting us on this issue. Many local groups are astonished at the execution the current local board is carrying out in its plan for the forest.On behalf of my C&R team we feel most aligned to options A and C. The fact is that we’ve only had one ‘expert’ come in to deem the trees unsafe from the local board with an agenda. As it currently stands my team would not support the current local board plan unless all facts are known. From my personal perspective I’ve heard that there has been a gross exaggeration on the safety of the forest by the local board as a reason for their plan to go ahead. We agree it’s silly to cut down a forest and replace it with another. I’d would certainly like to know more especially on the remaining lifespan for the trees and fully access their viability in the future.

“In addition the creation of an access road for the operation is one of our biggest concerns and shows a lack of wider thinking on part of the board, for example mulch on site which would reduce the impact of having an access road. As trees are being cut down across the central suburbs its important we protect what we have left. I live near Franklin Road and I would hate to see our trees there be cut down so I know how much an issue like this can make to locals.”
Josh Doubtfire

“I not only lived in Western Springs as a youngster, playing with friends in the former US military transit camp and in the ‘Pines’, as we called the bush area, I have also represented our area on the Western Bays Community Board, Auckland City Council, and Waitemata Local Board for 12 of the last 30 years. I agree that the actions of closing the track by the Council is unnecessary and heavy handed. There is no danger if users are sensible and proper maintenance is carried out. The old trees 🌲 have been falling down of their own accord for years, and will continue to do so. It seems to me, that all parties are agreed on the eventual outcome, ie a living, regenerating NZ native forest, which will be a home to our native birds and other species, in the middle of NZ’s largest City. The real issue is timing and process. Personally I would like to see it happen sooner, but not at the expense of losing a significant amount of the native sub canopy. Hopefully the next Local Board will be able to assist all parties to reach an agreement which is both sensible and affordable and which will deliver the outcome we all desire.”
Greg Moyle

“I’m in support of C.
I’m a born, bred and have continued to be a resident of the area – its home to my whenua.”
Ming Schaumkel

Following a positive conversation with the Society, Alex Bonham of City Vision expressed that option C best describes her position regarding the forest.

Sadly no other City Vision candidates have responded to our enquiry yet, apart from Pippa Coom, who didn’t answer the question.

No one who responded chose option (B) – the current Board’s plan for the forest.

The full text of the email we sent the candidates

Dear Local Body Candidate,

The Society for the Protection of Western Springs Forest is seeking your views on protection of Auckland’s tallest inner-city forest.

The Western Springs forest is a designated Significant Ecological Area rich in native flora and fauna. It is a mixed native and exotic forest with a sub-canopy of regenerating native bush and a 95 year old canopy of Monterey Pines. It is visible from many parts of Auckland and a distinctive part of the skyline in Western Springs, Westmere, Grey Lynn and parts of Point Chevalier.  

A contentious report from a single arborist stating the forest was unsafe lead the Waitemata Board to the view that closure of the public access track and a single felling operation to remove all of the pines was necessary.  A subsequent comprehensive tree by tree assessment conducted by two independent arborists and an independent health and safety consultant has shown that this level of safety concern is unjustified. 

The Society supports caring for this forest using a low-intervention management strategy that would see the essential character of Auckland’s tallest forest maintained through individual management of any trees that are found to be unsafe, ongoing management of weeds and pests, and restoration planting of natives with a focus on maximising ecological outcomes as the forest transitions. The final result would still be an all-native forest but the large-scale destruction of the existing forest would be avoided.      

Large urban trees are the least common and are so important for our air quality, as habitat for wildlife, for their grandeur and community amenity, and as stores of carbon in a climate challenged world. A viable strategy to retain this character urban forest already exists and has proved successful in the past. We believe the local board should support this plan..   

Presuming that trees are managed for safety so that the existing walking track can be reopened to the public, which of the following two statements would best align with your views? 

Please choose one of the following three options,
and let us know which you support by return email: 

  • (A) I support saving the forest by retaining its essential character as a mixed-species forest in natural transition to all-native and oppose current Waitemata Board plans for a single large-scale felling operation.
  • (B) I support the current Waitemata Board’s plans to cut-down all but a tiny remnant of the 218 canopy Monterey Pines in a single operation that will involve bulldozing an access road through the forest, creating five skid sites for log processing, and destroying an estimated 50-75% of the native forest sub-canopy.  
  • (C) I don’t feel sufficiently informed at this point to support either A or B but I am happy to have the Society to present its proposal and expert evidence to me and, if elected, will commit to considering all relevant evidence before making any decisions regarding management proposals for the forest, including the implementation and funding of the current resource consent.  

Please read our vision statement, here: our-vision