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Promises Promises For Protecting Our Trees

The Tree Council recently wrote to the leaders of all the major parties in the 2020 general election asking them to “make a commitment to support and enable the specific reinstatement of general tree protection on private land via the upcoming reform of the Resource Management Act”.

We have received an email from Minister for the Environment David Parker detailing Labour’s policy for repealing and replacing the Resource Management Act in the next term of government.

He states “As part of this, Labour will consider how councils can most appropriately and effectively protect significant urban trees and tree cover.” “The report (from the independent panel setting out the vision for reform of the RMA https://www.mfe.govt.nz/rmreview) did not make specific recommendations about urban tree protection. However, in receiving the report Cabinet noted that further work will be required on urban tree protection.” “I agree that the protection of mature and ecologically significant trees, especially indigenous ones, is an important matter. They are part of our unique biodiversity and contribute towards making our urban areas more liveable. However, it is also important that these protections do not create unnecessary compliance costs for things like routine pruning or removal of smaller trees.”

The Green Party also responded quickly to our request for their urban tree protection policy with the following statement from the Green Party MPs:

The Green Party absolutely supports better protection for urban trees as part of the next phase of resource management reforms. The Green Party has several times sought to reinstate the ability of councils to create general tree protection rules which were removed from the RMA by the former National Government, both as Opposition MPs on the Environment Select Committee during RMA changes from 2014-2017 and again as part of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2019. Unfortunately these changes were not supported by other political parties.

The Green Party believes that providing protection for urban trees and increasing urban tree cover is essential to creating thriving cities and towns; providing for natural space in cities and towns, providing for human mental wellbeing, providing shade and mitigating urban heat islands and other effects of climate change. We need to follow the example of cities such as Melbourne and have a plan to increase tree cover in our cities and towns.”

The Tree Council welcomes these statements from the Labour Party and from the Green Party MPs. Chair Sean Freeman said “we look forward to participating in the public consultation planned as part of the RMA review process after the election. Protecting the remaining mature trees on private land in our cities is both urgent and essential for ensuring a good quality of life for urban dwellers in New Zealand. Change cannot come soon enough. We encourage our members and supporters to use their votes wisely to bring back tree protection for our urban forest.”

No statement from any other party has been received to date.

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