Do You Care About Notable Trees

I have been attending the Auckland Unitary Plan Hearings on Notable Trees and wish to draw attention to some of what has been happening at those hearings. There have been a number of applications, by property owners, to de-list a significant number of notable trees and have them removed from the Notable Tree Register.

I encourage all residents of Auckland who care about Notable Trees to check out the website reference 025 Notable Trees Evidence and Documents:

There are many trees that are being de-listed that people may wish not to be de-listed.

The problem is the current Notable Tree criteria. The two magnolia trees at 230 Ponsonby Road are being de-listed because they do not meet the current Notable Tree criteria. It is quite likely that that criteria will change in the future just as it has in the past.

I am concerned about the de-listing of the two magnolia trees on Ponsonby Road because the application from the owners states that they want to redevelop the site and cut down the trees because planning requirements mean they cannot put an awning across the pavement if the trees remain. Is this really a good enough reason to destroy two mature, historical, trees that are net oxygen producers and are managing our biosphere? Trees are our climate managers. How will the oxygen, that will be taken from the local community by destroying these trees, be replaced?


My own personal view is that it will only take a clever designer to design around the trees to ensure their survival to pleasure us, our children, and the local biodiversity that lives on the trees. We should be making the effort to think outside the box to do this and there is precedence for this on Ponsonby Road near Bhana Bros shop. Although not very sophisticated, the awning has been built around the tree and near Shanghai Lil's there is another. We have precedents so let's build on that and encourage and require more tree-friendly design in Auckland and New Zealand.

However, there are even more critical reasons why we should not be de-listing these mature trees for whatever reason and why we should be preserving all of our mature trees whether they are native or exotic.

p8 WendyGrayHollyHudson

Currently, Auckland's urban forest is under threat. You cannot have failed to see the large numbers of mature trees that were once present in our gardens (60% of all tree cover in Auckland is on private property) which are being cut down for a purpose which is like some fundamentalist religion called property development. The designs of the new replacement buildings are not tree friendly.

We are being very thick and stupid about doing this. Even the Auckland Council fails to understand the true import of the loss of these trees which contribute hugely to cleaning the air of Auckland, managing storm water, sequestering carbon and producing oxygen which we breathe. The council have done an Air Quality Report which completely ignores the huge part played by Auckland's urban forest in managing the air quality of Auckland. This is a life threatening omission.

Looking at the facts it becomes clear that every time we cut down a mature tree not only is it a tragedy for the local community it is a disaster for the management of the Earth's biosphere.

When the Earth was formed, the atmosphere was full of poisonous gasses. Plants through their evolution and processes cleaned the biosphere, sequestering the poisons into the soils (unfortunately we are actively liberating them again with all our mining activities) and creating an environment where animals and humans were able to live. The mature trees are the large oxygen producers and they also manage the biosphere both locally and for the Earth. Therefore all mature oxygen producing trees are connected to the biosphere management of the Earth.

It is also worth noting that our lungs look like little forests. Trees breathe in carbon and breathe out oxygen (only when they are mature are green leafy trees net oxygen producers). We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon.

We are therefore connected in a very real physical sense to the plant world.

In recent years we have destroyed 80% of the Earth's ancient forests. It is said that the Amazon Forest is no longer a net oxygen producer. The oceans, where most of our oxygen is produced, are becoming dead.

The United Nations has estimated that there are 150 dead areas in the oceans which are directly related to our pollution. The plant phytoplankton in our oceans are being reduced by our activities. This means that there are fewer and fewer oxygen producers.

The really big news is about the air we breathe. The percentage of oxygen contained in our air is 19-20% and reducing each year. Before the Industrial Revolution it used to be much more than that. We and our children, will not be able to live on our Earth if the amount of oxygen in our air falls below 7%. Already in some parts of the Earth there are cities with oxygen levels of 14-15%. Less oxygen means more illness for humanity and stress which we are already experiencing. Eventually it means our demise as a species. This is not an ‘if’ it is a fact.

Along with the change of land use from forest to agriculture or plantation we are replacing the oxygen-producing mature forest with plants that do not reproduce the same amount of oxygen that the mature forest does. We are also destroying the ancient intelligence of the mature trees which created and manage our biosphere and the climate of the Earth. We are already seeing the consequences of this development.

Then we have the fossil fuel problem. When we burn fossil fuels and create carbon dioxide we sequester two x oxygen molecules for every one x of carbon produced. These oxygen molecules can only be released by being taken up by an oxygen-producing plant. This means that we are competing with our motor cars for the oxygen we breathe.

So, Auckland is busy cutting down its mature trees, its urban forest, and de-listing mature oxygen producers because they do not conform to someone's current idea of what a Notable Tree should look like. This is not to bash the council. From what I have heard, at the hearings, the council is very tree-friendly and is doing its best but it could do better.

Auckland Transport, the Department for Transport and Utilities, urgently needs to be educated about the vast damage they are causing by their uneducated and unaware attitude to our urban and rural trees. As we all know our Government is not tree-friendly nor are they willing to do anything other than business as usual, to try to ameliorate the consequences of our human activities on our climate. New Zealand now cuts down more trees than it plants annually which, doubtless, is contributing to the increased loss of oxygen from the air we breathe.

p8 Keshani

This means it is up to us. We need to change our own attitude to educate and inform and develop awareness of this very critical issue. We all hate the sound of a tree being cut down, or seeing a tree being cut down, because we know, instinctively, that it is wrong. You now know why your instinct is correct.

To cut down any mature tree is a major tragedy for the Earth. You cannot put a value on it. The local community should be consulted before any large mature tree is destroyed (no matter where it stands) because the reduction of oxygen produced by that tree has a direct affect on the health and wellbeing of the people who live nearby. No tree should even be allowed to be cut down without a full oxygen evaluation and a proper plan by the cutter of how he/she/it is going to replace the oxygen taken out of the atmosphere and the biosphere management that tree is providing.

In Auckland we are currently stealing the future from our children by our irresponsible attitude towards our very precious, invaluable, urban trees.

What can we do about it? Waitemata Local Board has a project to map Auckland's urban forest. They are in the developing stages of the project and will be looking for funding. This is a fabulous initiative to get us started. However, on the ground it seems that we have to fight for every tree until we are able to educate and raise awareness of this most important issue.

Please sign the petition to save the Ponsonby Road magnolia trees

Magnificent listed notable magnolia trees at 230 Ponsonby Road are threatened with being cut down and removed forever. We will lose a notable and much-loved feature of Ponsonby Road which will be the poorer for their loss.