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72 Year Old And Elected Member Atop Digger At Western Springs Forest To Stop “Carnage” And “Disrespect”

Friday 17 April: Before dawn this morning 72 year old grandmother Linda Hill climbed atop a digger being used to cut a logging track through the Western Springs Forest.

Linda was raised in the area and used to play in the forest as a child. “I am protecting this forest for my grandchildren.”

Word of her entry led to Waitemata Local Board elected representative Sarah Trotman following her in support.

“This community is rightly outraged at the disrespect shown then and lack of authentic engagement around this project and the destruction being wrought which is not what anyone imagined when they heard talk of a restoration project,” said Trotman.

“This Western Springs Forest resistance is part of a pattern of disregarded communities from Canal Road trees in Avondale and Waiheke Marina to Mataharehare Pā in Dove Myer Robinson Park,” says Trotman.

Linda’s action was inspired by footage and images of Samantha Crosbie of Avondale who yesterday spontaneously climbed on the digger as it was ploughing through the regenerating native forest above the Western Springs Lakeside. Crosbie was arrested yesterday and charged with Wilful trespass.

Native trees began being felled in the forest by Auckland Council on Friday last week including a 10-15 year old kauri tree a 25-30 year old pōhutukawa tree. Mature silver ferns (ponga), whekī, as well as over a dozen other self-seeded native trees including red matipo, coprosma, karo and pittosporum. Footage of the cutting was posted on social media last Friday by environmentalist and member of Mana Rākau Steve Abel alerting many to the cutting.

Since then the dense native understorey including many dozens of native trees, ferns and other vegetation has been cut down and grazed from the ground to make an eight metre wide 200 metre long logging track through the heart of the forest.

Crosbie described the scene as “carnage and destruction.”

Council have billed the action as a Restoration Project. As well as cutting the logging track the $1.7 million dollar plan involves the felling of 200 pines which they concede will damage 50% of the native vegetation.

Local residents have been calling for a low-interference management plan that would allow the existing native forest to remain and for removal of the few pines that pose an intolerable risk to park users rather than every last one.

“Western springs forest is already a regenerating native forest with decades old native trees growing under a canopy of iconic pine trees that can be seen standing tall on the hillside behind the springs,” Says Hill.

“This plan will destroy the character of the Western Springs Forest which is Auckland’s tallest inner-city forest and is visible from many parts of the city,” she says.

“It must be halted until a low-interference restoration plan is developed with mana whenua and the local community.”

On Monday afternoon Steve Abel was arrested at Western Springs having halted chainsaws by spending the day sitting in a native karo tree. He is due to appear in the Auckland District Court at 9am this morning.

“Our city has seen a rampage of mature tree destruction already in 2021, including the cutting down of the native grove at Canal Road in Avondale. If they are serious about their Climate Emergency declaration, and the Urban Ngahere Strategy, Auckland Council needs to stop being part of the problem. They need to listen to the community and halt the felling of Western Springs Forest,” says Abel.

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