Who is the Society for the Protection of Western Springs Forest?
This Incorporated Society is made up of residents on West View Road and people who made submissions for the resource consent hearing in 2018/2019. It is possible to become a member of the Society if you support the protection of the Forest
How can we get the walking track from West View Road open?
This could happen straight away. The Auckland Council has refused to do this and we think it is for the cynical purpose of getting public support for their felling operation through frustration at the track being closed.
Aren’t all the pine trees dying?
No. These Monterey pines were planted in 1926 so are about 93 years old. The age that Monterey pines reach in New Zealand is not known, but there is a tree which is 160 years old in the South Island. The process of aging for us and trees is called senescence which means they grow less vigorously and eventually they will wither and die but this may take many years and for the healthier trees they could be around for decades yet. This forest is known as a transitioning native forest– from pine trees to a full native forest, and is rich with native ecology and biodiversity.
Isn’t the Council going to create a native forest?
There is already a transitioning native forest and ecology which has been growing under the pines for many years. This felling operation will effectively devastate the native forest that is there. The proposal is to replace the existing native forest understory with landscaping of mostly very small PB5s. The planning of of 8670 native shrubs, trees, sedges ,flaxes and cabbage trees is inadequate (approximately one quarter will be sedges, flaxes and cabbage trees; less than 10% will be podocarps (kauri, totara, kaihikatea, rimu) most no bigger than PB5s).
It will take years for these trees to get to specimen tree size let alone a forest. Then Council has to keep them alive over hot summers, they will have no protection from an overstorey which is nature’s way of nurturing her forest. Council will keep the weeds at bay with chemicals as it is doing on the Bullock Track. The figures for plantings are likely to change in the end given the logs left in situ and the pine tree roots in the bank. There is no guarantee that 8670 plants will be planted at the end of the day. The figure of 15,000 mentioned by Waitemata Local Board is not supported in the documentation.
Aren’t the pine trees unsafe?
No. They are at a natural stage of their life and are growing well and normally for their species and age (Monterey pines). A few trees need management by an arboricultural expert – one needs a branch managed and a few may need to be sectionally felled, but not the whole pine stand which would destroy the forest.
Isn’t there a health and safety issue with the Forest?
No. The Council needs to take “reasonable and practicable steps” to manage hazards and health and safety risks. Felling an entire urban native forest/ngahere is not a reasonable step. The Council can manage each tree that presents a hazard – such as removing dangerous branches, using cable ties, regular inspections of trees – this is all normal arboricultural practice followed by other councils in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. Auckland Council used to follow this practice before the Super City.
Has the Council assessed the Forest from the tree perspective?
No. The Council has never conducted a thorough tree by tree assessment. This is contrary to basic arboricultural practice. This is one of our major concerns with the Council’s approach to this whole project – it is unprofessional to say the least for the Council to have never fully assessed each of the trees they propose to fell.
Has the Council considered other options for the Forest?
No. There has been no proper Ecological Management Plan prepared for this Forest with alternatives of how to manage it. We also consider this to be unprofessional of the Council to decide to destroy a native forest/ngahere without sufficient ecological advice and reporting on better strategies for managing it.Nowhere has the Council considered what is to happen to the biodiversity, endemic and migratory species which currently live and use this Forest.
Why is the Auckland Council doing this if it is such a bad idea?
It seems some years ago Council staff had an idea that this was a good idea based on incorrect advice about the health of the trees. Then a Project was created and was worked on and the officials don’t want to change their mind and have convinced the Local Board that they are right. We all know that bureaucracies can be stubborn once they get an idea in their head.
What is the role of the Local Board in all this?
The Waitemata Local Board is actually officially in charge of all this. The Local Board recommended the Project for resource consent and can choose to stop the Project at any time. The elected members have no expertise in ecology or trees and are only following the advice of Auckland Council officials. We also all know that politicians often listen more to their officials than outside and independent experts and their communities.
We say the Local Board should listen to independent ecological and arboricultural experts and consult with the affected residents and community before making any decision – they haven’t done so yet.
How does this fit with the climate change emergency declared by Auckland Council and the Waitemata Local Board?
Good question. De-forestation of our unique urban forest/ngahere Significant Ecological Area is not compatible with acting responsibly after declaring a climate change emergency. A transitioning closed canopy native forest/ngahere already exists. It is common sense you cannot replace the values of a 90 year old forest Significant Ecological Area with landscaping of small native trees, shrubs and grasses. It takes at least 90 years .
Didn’t the Auckland Council just announce its Urban Forest/ngahere Strategy?
Yes it did in March 2019. The Auckland Council published an important policy recognising the huge importance of the urban forest to a healthy city;
“A healthy urban ngahere (forest) enriches our communities, our local economies and our natural environment. Auckland cannot become a world-class city without one… [t]rees
and vegetation are valuable to all of us. They clean our air and stormwater, cool
and beautify our urban spaces and bring nature to our doorsteps. Developed in partnership with tangata whenua, the strategy gives voice to an important role trees play in the mauri of the land. They provide a wide range of measurable benefits that make our lives healthier, happier and more gratifying.”
Does Westmere have one of the worst tree-losses in Auckland?
Unfortunately yes we do. There has been a recent report on tree loss in our WLB area over the years 2006-2016 (September 2018)
This report also identifies Council as the “significant player” in the loss of protected trees (which these trees in this SEA are) in the WLB area.