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Save Our Urban Forests! Less Than 2 Weeks To Stop The Chop

A new campaign to stop the cutting down of mature trees in New Zealand’s cities has launched today. Kiwis have until August 4th to make an urgent Stop The Chop submission to ask the government to include protection of our urban forests in their newly proposed legislation so as to prevent thousands of trees from being chopped down every week.

In Auckland alone at least 1000 trees are being cut down on private land every week. If this is allowed to continue, Auckland will lose the vast majority of its remaining mature trees on private land within a maximum of 20 years and future generations will live in a compromised urban environment at the mercy of the worst ravages of climate change.

In 2012, the Government at the time started to make changes to the Resource Management Act so as to restrict Councils throughout New Zealand from applying appropriate tree protection provisions to our urban forests. Post 2015 when the new rules were finally implemented (against much protest), this deregulated the arboricultural industry and, as a result, has led to significant losses of mature and maturing trees in our cities. The worst hit specimens have been large trees on private land with an estimated 250,000+ trees cut down over this time in Auckland alone. Over 60% of the urban forest in Auckland is located on private land, the majority of which currently has no legal protection whatsoever. This situation is reflected in cities throughout the country.

The most high profile example of large trees being chopped down was the felling of 46 x 100+ year old mature and rare native trees at No.52 – 58 Canal Road in Avondale, Auckland earlier this year. There was huge media interest in the 245 day protest, which was the longest standing tree occupation in the country’s history. A massive police presence was mobilised and activists who had been living in the trees were removed and the trees felled to make way for a private housing development. It culminated in dramatic scenes that led to over 8 arrests and generated widespread public support for the need to establish effective protection of our urban forest.

Now the Government is consulting on the first of 3 new pieces of legislation that will replace the Resource Management Act, with the deadline for submissions on the draft of the first Bill at 11:59pm on 4 August 2021. The Tree Council is urging the Government to require via this new legislation protection of the urban forest in our cities throughout New Zealand.

Stop the Chop is proposing changes to the draft legislation which will open the door to this possibility. However, further work is required to develop the necessary legislative targets that are required to make effective urban forest protection a reality, before the rest of our large trees on private land are lost in the race for short term financial gain.

“The worst case scenario is that the new legislation will not require Councils to provide much needed legal protection of the ever dwindling Urban Forest” says Stop The Chop spokesperson, Dr Mels Barton.

“Our cities need to have both quality, intensified urban housing AND a sustainable Urban Forest. Other large cities around the world achieve this already, so we need to legislate now to ensure we can achieve this in Aotearoa New Zealand as well.”

Stop the Chop believes New Zealand needs to manage and protect its remaining urban tree assets by applying standards and targets in national legislation, which are implemented locally via Council planning schemes. There is a need for particular emphasis on retaining mature trees because they provide the most significant benefits and are most at risk due to the pressure on developable land area with urban intensification occurring at pace in a number of our big cities.

If Aotearoa does not legislate to protect the remaining Urban Forests now, the cumulative effects of the ‘property-by-property death by a thousand cuts’ currently happening will result in a near total loss of mature and maturing trees on private land in our intensifying cities within 20 years. These trees can never be replaced once the space they occupy is taken by buildings and infrastructure. We must act now to Stop the Chop before it’s too late.

To make your submission head to stopthechop.co.nz

About Stop The Chop

Stop the Chop is a campaign led by The Tree Council and supported by the New Zealand Arboricultural Association.

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