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High Court appeal to protect ability for tree protection

High Court appeal to protect ability to argue for tree protection

Appeal to the High Court against a decision of the Environment Court Wellington.

CIV-2016-485-000966

East Harbour Environmental Association, Appellant and Hutt City Council, Respondent.
10 am Tuesday 11th July, 2017 in the High Court, Wellington.

The High Court on Tuesday 11 July will consider an appeal by East Harbour Environmental Association (EHEA). This action concerns an Environment Court decision that ruled out the substantive part of an EHEA appeal against a plan change removing tree protection on large parts of the Eastbourne hills and elsewhere in the Hutt City.

Linda Mead, the spokesperson for EHEA, says that this is a very important case with implications New Zealand wide. “If the High Court rules against us, it will mean any council can include broad provisions in changes to their District Plans but claim that only one part is capable of being submitted on, and then community groups such as ourselves will find themselves excluded from meaningful participation in the process.”

The background is a government change to the RMA in 2013 to outlaw general tree protection rules that councils had previously relied on. This meant that all councils have had to rewrite their rules protecting groups of trees in suburban areas.

That change to the RMA affected not just flat suburban sections, but also places like the hill suburbs of Eastbourne where trees are an important part of the character of those suburbs, as well as providing vital slope stability.

In 2015 the Hutt City Council responded to the RMA amendments by publicly notifying a plan change that removed nearly all existing tree protection rules, while purporting to be focused on protecting a relative handful of “Notable” trees.

EHEA responded with submissions saying that in order to comply with the RMA the Council needed to find ways to keep most of the existing protections, and furthermore had viable ways to do so. The Council argues that it can ignore the EHEA submissions and that EHEA is limited to seeking only minor amendments to the Council proposal.

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