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The Tree Council Appeals Huia Water Treatment Plant Decision

The Tree Council has today lodged an appeal in the Environment Court against the decision to grant consent for tree removal and earthworks to enable Watercare’s Huia Water Treatment Plant to be built on Manuka Road in Titirangi.

The broad community campaign collaborating on the case to date also includes Forest & Bird, Titirangi Residents & Ratepayers Association, Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, Titirangi Protection Group and Save Our Kauri Trust.

The community team brought a total of 10 expert witnesses to the recent 3 day hearing. This hearing was entirely focussed on the issue of kauri dieback, following the issue being raised by the submitters as the major risk from the proposed works at the previous 8 day hearing held in March 2020.

After the first hearing the Commissioners directed Watercare to undertake sampling for kauri dieback on the site and surrounding area. The results showed that the pathogen was present everywhere in the soil and water across the project site, not just associated with kauri trees.

Expert after expert witness gave evidence over 2 days of the recent hearing to show that the proposed development could not be done without releasing large volumes of the kauri dieback pathogen into the downstream environment, risking the health of all kauri and other species in the Waima catchment, despite the assurances given by Watercare’s consultants that they could minimise and control the risk.

Biosecurity expert Jack Craw gave evidence to show that consenting the proposal would constitute a breach of the Biosecurity Act.

Mana whenua Te Kawerau ā Maki’s Edward Ashby gave evidence to show that this was a breach of the Waitakere Ranges rāhui, Te Kawerau’s tikanga (principles) and risked the mana (honour) of the tribe by sending infected material to another tribe’s rohe (area), as well as damaging the mauri (lifeforce) of the environment downstream of the works, and that this was not acceptable to them.

The evidence presented by the submitters in the hearing was so convincing that the Council experts all recommended to the Independent Commissioners that the consents should be declined. The Reporting Planner stated that in addition to the kauri dieback effects and the cultural effects being “more than minor” that Watercare’s site selection process had been flawed. The company had failed to take into account kauri dieback and had underestimated the social effects on the community in selecting its preferred site, relying more on the fact that the Manuka Rd site already had a designation for use for water treatment purposes.

However, the recent decision from the Independent Commissioners granted the consents with conditions.

“This has been a 4 year journey for the community, who have sat around the table with Watercare and repeatedly told them that kauri dieback was a major issue and needed to be taken into consideration - and it was not” said The Tree Council’s Secretary Dr Mels Barton.

“Watercare and their consultants challenged the integrity and knowledge of our expert witnesses at the March 2020 hearing, despite having no kauri dieback expert of their own. So this time we brought evidence from many nationally recognised experts to back them up and show that they needed to be taken seriously and that the applicant and their consultants were unqualified, inept and incapable of controlling the risks to the environment from their proposals. They simply did not understand anything about the pathogen or how easy it is to spread. It is disappointing that the Commissioners listened to the case we made but did not have the courage to decline the consents.”

“The Tree Council is challenging this decision via an appeal to the Environment Court because we know we can make a successful case based on the overwhelming evidence we have presented to date. We are disappointed that the huge amount of work undertaken by all these community groups over the last 4 years, including the community of Oratia, has not yet been successful, but we will continue the fight.”

The Tree Council is calling for donations to pay the expenses of an Environment Court appeal needed to achieve a good outcome for the community.

© Scoop Media

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