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Arborists Join 19-day Native Tree Occupation

Arborist, Hanna Luypers occupying the Puriri tree in the centre of the Canal Road site. 

This morning two professional arborists and two community members scaled trees to halt the chainsaws at the infamous Canal Road native tree cluster in Avondale. Support for the protest has been flooding in from the arboriculture community after footage circulated showing activist, Steve Abel narrowly escaping being hit by a falling tree while protesting earlier this week.

Arboricultural teacher Zane Wedding is dismayed at the tree destruction at Canal Rd and says the Government must return tree protection both for the sake of trees and his industry.

“The removal of tree protection has led to the carnage that’s out here and a massive dip in the skill of arborists. What happened at the start of this week in Canal Road is one of the worst things I've seen in 20 years of arboriculture. The Government needs to bring back tree protection - it’s terrible out here!” says Wedding.

The felling of the native trees was first halted by local resident, William Lee, when he stood in front of a wood chipper on Wednesday, 8 July. Since then the community has galvanised in protest and civil disobedience with over a dozen community members occupying trees to ward off contract cutters. Five protestors, including Lee and Abel, were arrested on Tuesday and will appear in court on Friday 31 July.

Arborist, Hanna Luypers has been occupying the sentinel Puriri in the middle of the property since dawn. Local residents are occupying the karaka and totara trees, respectively.

While approximately 14 trees have been destroyed in the past two weeks during rushed cutting raids, there are still around 20 sizable trees on the site including three rare Black Maire, a NZ Cedar as well as two totara and two large puriri (see list of trees lost and remaining below). Originally 46 native trees were planted by woodwork teacher Walter Burgess nearly a century ago. They are marked for felling at the request of landowners, David and Paul Raymond, who claim it is a requirement of the sale of the land.

The Burgess family have expressed their devastation at the destruction of their grandfather’s trees and are seeking to meet with the Raymonds to discuss the matter.

The community are also calling on Mayor Goff and the Auckland Council to purchase the land and turn it into a public reserve.

“We invite Mayor Phil Goff and all Councillors to visit and see what a devastating waste the Council’s lack of action has caused at Canal Road. We urge them to save what remains from annihilation,” says Steve Abel.

“We are also calling on Environment Minister David Parker to reinstate general tree protection so that trees of this stature and heritage are safe from the saw.”

The community is challenging the new landowner to front up to the locals and undertake professional mediation.

Trees remaining at the canal road site:

4 totara (two very large), 3 puriri, 2 titoki, 1 rimu, 5 karaka, 1 uncommon NZ Cedar, 3 rare black maire, 1 mangaeo and one very large and old pohutukawa by the footpath which is the only tree with any protection

Big trees cut down in the last two weeks include:

2 totara, 1 hinau, 1 titoki, 1 rewarewa, 1 pohutukawa, a number of smaller whitey wood and karaka, a large pittosporum, and three stems of a massive Puriri but the main stem remains.

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