Urban tree protection to be expanded following landmark agreement
Since late-December, the urban tree guardians Mana Rākau have sought to save a macrocarpa at our Aroha site in Avondale. After several weeks of negotiating – and a lot of listening and learning – we're pleased to announce we've reached an agreement that'll allow our project to proceed. We've also pledged our support to Mana Rākau in their fight to save Auckland's urban rākau.
Notable trees in West Auckland’s Whau Ward are set for stronger protection following an agreement between a housing partnership and tree protection group. A resource consent permitted the removal of an Avondale macrocarpa to make way for a high-quality affordable housing project, but a protest to keep it began amid concerns over tree-felling within Auckland’s urban ngahere. The partners to the Aroha project – Marutūāhu Iwi, and Ockham (the developer) – have been in talks with Mana Rākau, the urban tree guardians who had occupied the macrocarpa.
The parties have reached an agreement which includes Ockham-Marutūāhu working with Mana Rākau representatives to progress the urgent scheduling of 13 notable trees awaiting formal protection in the Whau area.
With iwi investment and all consents in place, the Aroha Project’s 117 apartments (including 47 KiwiBuild homes) are more than two-thirds sold, many to first home buyers. Construction is due to begin next month following the removal of the macrocarpa.
Ockham co-founder Mark Todd says, “We believe our constructive and open discussions with Mana Rākau have accelerated the wider conversation about tree protection in Auckland, which has swung all over the map in the past two decades and is wholly inadequate right now.
“In our discussions with Mana Rākau we found we had more in common than differences in our views on the importance of investment in trees and the need for stronger political support for this. I greatly admire the mahi Mana Rākau have been doing. We look forward to working with them on this immediate tree scheduling programme and longer-term shared goals.”
The Aroha project protects three of the four scheduled trees on the site, and 21 mature natives will be planted in the vicinity of the new buildings. Ockham and Marutūāhu intend to work with local business owners and artists to explore how the macrocarpa can be repurposed for the Avondale village, close to where it grew.
It has been noted that an independent arborist report submitted to Auckland Council in early December confirmed that the tree is in decline, with canker leading to branch weaknesses and a “not tolerable or extreme risk” posed to pedestrians and traffic by a three-metre-long crack which requires a large portion of the tree, including a 22-metre stem, to be removed for safety. In January, Auckland Council contractors strapped the stem extending towards Ash Street as a temporary safety measure.
Mark Todd says, “Ockham is proud of what we are delivering in Tāmaki Makaurau with the Marutūāhu Iwi. Their role in assisting reaching a resolution with Mana Rākau has been crucial.
“The Aroha project, a partnership between Mana Whenua, the Crown, Council and the private sector, shows what is possible when people get serious about the challenges.
“We extend our thanks to Mana Rākau for their patience, goodwill, and readiness to collaborate to solve these long-term challenges and balance the need for quality housing with the urgency of expanded tree protection.
From a climate perspective, the Aroha development saves another six hectares of urban sprawl, environmental destruction on Auckland’s edges and thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions from commuting. It also contributes towards Auckland’s desperate need for affordable housing: Aroha provides apartments priced from $450,000 (KiwiBuild) and $470,000 (open market) to $795,000, depending on size. The median house price in Auckland hit $1 million for the first time in October 2020, and economists are predicting a 12% to 16% rise in 2021.
- Ockham and Marutūāhu were invited by Panuku Development Auckland (backed by the Whau Local Board and Auckland Council) to undertake the Aroha project in partnership with HUD. Ockham and Marutūāhu have a track record of success in the quality affordable housing space – Tuatahi in Mt Albert (completed in 2019) and Kōkihi in Waterview (sold out and due for completion by Q2 2021, ahead of schedule);
- Aroha represents a commitment to the Avondale community, with the suburb selected as a special regeneration zone by Panuku because of its proximity to the CBD, existing infrastructure and excellent public transport connections;
- The Aroha project will create 117 quality apartments, including 47 KiwiBuild apartments, in the heart of Avondale. Eighty-one apartments have already been sold, with construction due to start in February 2021 and finish by early 2023;
- The site contains four scheduled trees. Three are being retained and the fourth, a macrocarpa on the boundary of the site and a Great North Road berm, has resource consent and asset owner consent for removal. It will be replaced by 21 new and mature native trees in green space that has been designed into the Aroha plan;
- All consents for Aroha, including resource consent, were issued non-notified as the project is in complete accordance with the objectives, policies and rules of the Auckland Plan 2050 to create a quality, compact city and help address the housing affordability and climate crises;
- The project design, including macrocarpa removal, has been approved by Panuku's design review panel, Auckland Council’s processing planner and urban design review panel, and the independent commissioner who issued approval non-notified on the basis of its accordance with the Auckland Plan;
- To protect birdlife and other fauna, as part of the safe removal of the macrocarpa, arborists and other specialists will be on-site to ensure there is no active nesting in the tree. The new planting of natives as part of the project will add considerable additional habitat for local birdlife than is on the site at present, and specialists will advise on bird feeding and shelter as the new trees grow.