Tree felling protesters plan to camp at Auckland maunga

Source: 1News

People protesting the felling of 443 trees, some of which are 100 years old, from Mt Richmond/Ōtāhuhu are planning to camp on the South Auckland maunga when the chainsaws come out.

Shirley Waru.

By Hannah Filmer

Long-time Ōtāhuhu resident Shirley Waru, who leads the Respect Mt Richmond group, has been campaigning against the removal plan set by Tūpuna Maunga Authority. She said all trees are part of the connected tangata whenua.

According to Respect Mt Richmond, 443 trees are set to be felled.

“From a Māori perspective, we don’t see them as native and exotic … we see them as trees," Waru said.

“All trees have significant cultural and heritage significance no matter what they are. Maunga Richmond’s trees are therefore a huge part of the wairua of the maunga.”

Non-native trees make up 75 per cent of the maunga’s tree coverage, and all of them are set to go.

The Treaty settlement signed in 2014 states the land would be kept under a co-governance for all people across Auckland. The co-governance consists of equal iwi and Auckland Council representatives.

A sign on the maunga explaining the felling.

“All trees are part of Mātauranga Māori which all tangata whenua Māori are connected to through whakapapa and whanaungatanga. The mana mauri and wairua will be taken from our community by felling the trees,” Waru said.

The Auckland Council’s Tūpuna Maunga Authority says natives help restore and enhance the mauri and wairua of the maunga.

“Native vegetation is one of the natural features of Nga Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau that have diminished over many decades.”

According to a 2018 LIDAR report, the Mangere/Ōtāhuhu local board has the lowest tree canopy in Auckland at just 8 per cent.

Mt Richmond/Ōtāhuhu is a sanctuary to native birds, including native grey heron, which have been seen nestled among the pines.

“Where would all the birds live? Mangere has already been stripped of trees and other maunga are becoming bare,” Waru said.

Native morepork are no longer seen on Ōtāhuhu after the cliff face of olive trees they settled in were chopped down.

In reply, Tūpuna Maunga said they’ve worked with professional ecologists to ensure the overall ecological effects from the removals would be low.

“This includes native vegetation restoration in conjunction with a production of biodiverse values that include improved habitats for birds.”

Waru and a group of locals are ready to camp on the maunga when the chainsaws come out.

Non-native trees make up 75 per cent of the maunga’s tree coverage, and all of them are set to go.

“We will be peacefully protesting by camping [here]. It is our right and I hope it makes people think about what they are doing.”

Waru understands particular trees may need to go if they pose danger or are diseased.

“There may be some closer to the houses which may lean or fall, and that makes sense, but every single exotic on the maunga? That doesn’t make sense.”

Waru said she supports reverting the maunga to fully native vegetation over a period of time, but says this should be a slow process done over many decades.

Tūpuna Maunga said it was important to note that the plans for the restoration programme have been widely consulted on.

The application for removal has consent for the felling of 278 trees thus far.

The wider restoration programme will ensure that over 39,000 native low-growing plants will be planted by 2024, according to the Council.

The local group has set up a Givealittle page for donations to print flyers and explainer signs.