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Fight to save Christchurch’s trees

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, February 9th, 2016 - 50 comments
Categories: activism, christchurch earthquake, Conservation, Gerry Brownlee - Tags: , , , , , ,

Gerry Brownlee has not accomplished very much in his role as earthquake recovery minister. But he has, with the help of his good friend Nick Smith, managed to saddle the people of Christchurch with the expense of paying to have our district plan reviewed — his way.

In order to ensure that only the best quality outcomes get delivered, he has used the CER Act to make sure that the whole process is run by a panel of very expensive independent commissioners, who are running a fast-tracked, no expense spared, quasi-Court like process that is virtually inaccessible to ordinary citizens.

And of course, since the democratic process just costs time and money, this hearing panel is a one stop shop. The decisions it makes are final, and there is no right of appeal to the Environment Court to test facts, or the quality of the decisions that are being made. You can only to the High Court, on points of law – if you happen to have a spare 100 grand or so.

One of the changes proposed under the new district plan will see 80% of the currently registered notable and heritage trees in Christchurch, lose their protected status. Take that, Garden City!

De-registered trees can be cut down at any time, without notice.

2000 trees that are currently protected will lose that status if these changes go forward. Because of the fast track time frame there was no time allowed for consultation so most people in Christchurch are not aware that this is happening.

I am part of a group that is supporting individuals who did submit, and who are fighting back.

And we are fighting back effectively. So far we have presented evidence, and negotiated settlements with the Crown and with the Christchurch City Council that would see over 1000 trees make it back on to the register.

We are still fighting for the rest.

In order to be taken seriously by the hearing panel, we have had to pay for expert and legal representation. This has been a very expensive process. Volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of their own time and thousands of dollars of their own money fighting this fight.

We need help to continue, and to make sure that the negotiated settlements we have reached so far, are honoured.

If you are able to help us financially, then please consider visiting our “give a little page” and making a donation:

https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/chchnotabletrees

If you are not able to help us with money, then please consider putting the word out.

As a group, we are exhausted, but we are keeping up the fight. Because no one else is in a position to do what we are doing, and what we are doing needs to be done.

— Andrew Robins


chritschurch-trees

50 comments on “Fight to save Christchurch’s trees ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Good on you Andrew.

    What is it about this government and trees? There are also the changes to the RMA the Government has made trying to remove blanket protection for urban trees. They have had two goes at this and always claimed that scheduling was the way to provide protection even though it was clearly far too cumbersome and expensive a method.

    They really are full of anti lorax sorts.

    • weka 1.1

      “What is it about this government and trees?”

      They seek to destroy all that is good and beautiful that can’t be bought. Not as a conspiracy or active plan but just as a normal consequence of who they are and what they value and how they use their power.

      This tree issue is the same as the rivers and lakes issue. Which is the same as the destruction of mass amounts of trees throughout NZ from the industrial dairy conversions.

      These people have no souls and if we don’t stop them they will try and destroy everything that is real.

      Sorry micky, I know that’s not what you were asking, but sometimes their evil just comes into sharp relief.

      • Chooky 1.1.1

        +100

      • hoom 1.1.2

        I really do find it hard to fathom why they seem to have such a pathological hatred for such things.

        And not just a couple of things like trees: this govt is really stuck into a lot of these extreme ideological positions.

        No matter how much their dirty columnists call them ‘centrist’ they really are extreme rightist wonks.

    • Andrew Neill Robins 1.2

      Thanks Mr savage.

      Today our team is up before the panel – so wish us luck

  2. vto 2

    Need room for more irrigators eh…

    Because cows are good

    • greywarshark 2.1

      Four legs good, two legs, some not so good, one trunk – always expendable. Elephants are safe, so far.

      • vto 2.1.1

        Didn’t know you could milk elephants. Need bigger farms. Always wondered why mankind didn’t domesticate other, larger, animals for agriculture…. guess it had something to do with ease of control of smaller ones back before we had what we have today….???

  3. Jenny Kirk 3

    Passed this on to a couple of other “tree friendly” groups.

    This govt is weird re trees. You’d think that even if they deny climate change and the good that trees do for that, these Nat people would at least appreciate the beauty of trees and the enhancement having trees around give to a property or a district..

  4. vto 4

    A beautiful leafy street in a part of town recently had the ‘problem’ trees removed.

    Now it is a barren asphalt street like all the others.

    • Sabine 4.1

      the people that lived there did nothing?

      • vto 4.1.1

        It happened too quickly and the owners too complacent and, get this, were absentee owners…

        absentee owners – why would they care?

        • Sabine 4.1.1.1

          well, if you bought a house in a leafy subburb and now own a house on bleak street how would that affect the re-sale value of the property and can that be measured? 🙂

          • savenz 4.1.1.1.1

            My understanding is in environment court you can’t really argue of loss of value to your house. There is a very limited set of arguments and common sense is not part of it.

            How else do you get those pylons and motorways and over height developments through and erecting massive fences as a nuisance neighbour?

      • Andrew Neill Robins 4.1.2

        If it is anything like the process in ChCh then the window for submissions was so small that most people just missed it.

        That is why right at this moment, an Author, a retired School teacher, an Arborist and a Landscape Architect are being cross examined by the council lawyers.

        They just happened to be the people who saw it and submitted in time.

  5. Sabine 5

    Is there a Map out there that shows where the protected trees vs the unprotected trees live? T’would be interesting to know.

    As for the National Voter in CHCH, that is what they voted for. Well done guys. I hope that future tax cut will make up for the loss of shade and beauty.

    • Andrew Neill Robins 5.1

      Hi sabine.

      A few people have asked for a map.

      When our wokloa drops off, we might be able to produce such a thing. But with 80 % of the currently protected trees being removed from the register pretty much all parts of ChCh and banks peninsular will be impacted.

      if the changes we have negotiated so far are confirmed though, the impacts will be much less extensive. We just need to keep the pressure on through the rest of the hearings process, and be ready for any further negotiations that might be requested

      And we need money to pay the expenses we have already incurred. Which are large.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    Show me a tree and I will show you someone who wants to chop it down – from old people on mobility scooters who say they make the footpath uneven to others who don’t like the shade to farmers who want their irrigators to move unimpeded and many more reasons

    • Phil 6.1

      I’m pretty sure their aren’t any farmers moving irrigation equipment through central Christchurch.

  7. Lanthanide 7

    1. Are the trees in the photo protected trees, or just an example of trees?
    2. If they are protected, are they some of the trees that may lose their protection should this change go through?
    3. What are the general characteristics that will cause some trees to lose their protection, but not others? Is it particular species, ages, or locations?

    Without all of this information, it’s not really possible to make an informed decision about whether to support your cause or not.

    • r0b 7.1

      The video on the Givealittle page may answer some of your questions.

      • Lanthanide 7.1.1

        I don’t have time to watch a video on another page.

        • mpledger 7.1.1.1

          By not giving the time to become informed then you are essentially siding with the people who want to cut down the trees.

          Is 5 minutes of your time really that precious?

          • Magisterium 7.1.1.1.1

            I saw a bunch of old white people complaining about Council. I guess that’s what they do.

            The middle-aged white woman was an exception, you know the one who was complaining the the submissions process was taking place in the middle of the launch of her third book, so critical to her writing career.

            Cool that they got Kylo Ren to do a voiceover though.

            • Andrew Neill Robins 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Thanks for your comments so far.

              Unfortuately, most of the team is busy before the panel today, so we have limited capacity to respond.

              We were all up past midnight getting ready – and up at 5:30 again this morning – as today is crunch day for the team.

            • Andrew Neill Robins 7.1.1.1.1.2

              I am tempted to write something extremely rude here.

              But I will just settle for saying Fuck You.

              • Magisterium

                Maybe you shouldn’t have done a promotional video that is about as appealing as cancer.

                • vto

                  Why was the colour of the submitters skin important to you?

                • Maybe you should realise your vileness is internally generated.

                  Good work team in getting this out there and for the trees you have saved. Kia kaha for the next trees to receive your protection. It is so wrong to take the protection away from these heritage trees – they are important and special.

          • Lanthanide 7.1.1.1.2

            Or, perhaps those who are spending so much time on this cause, could spend an extra 2 minutes to write some of this stuff down, once, that they can then copy and paste everywhere else?

            If you’re trying to build a movement and get support for your cause, then you need your message to reach as many people as possible.

            Hiding your message in a video and saying “go watch the video” is not the best approach.

    • Andrew Neill Robins 7.2

      All of the trees in the video are currently registered trees that are having their protection removed as part of this process

      • Lanthanide 7.2.1

        Ok, so now answer number 3, which was the most important question…

        • marty mars 7.2.1.1

          Jeepers mate – they are trying to save some trees – you’re coming on a bit strong there imo. You know if it something you are into or not and you have strong skills in sorting info out – has something just got up your nose about this – their approach or something. Anyway – not trying to pry or anything…

          • Lanthanide 7.2.1.1.1

            I’m skeptical of anyone who says “there’s this massive dangerous thing going on in our city that no-one knows about!”, doubly-so when they don’t actually provide basic information about what this so-called dangerous thing is.

            I don’t care if it’s a noble cause like saving trees, or someone ranting on about mysterious radioactive leaks that the US government is covering up (as we had about a year ago). Both sets of people get the same response from me – put up or shut up.

            • Andrew Neill Robins 7.2.1.1.1.1

              Hi Lathanide

              The district plan process is a fact. The changes the Council are seeking are all public.

              Do some basic research.

              Until you do that, you can’t claim to be “sceptical”.

              The best you are going to manage is ignorant.

              Sorry – but I find the implication that I and the rest of the team are making all of this up to be absolutely bizarre

              • Lanthanide

                I never implied you’re making it up.

                What I said is: present your evidence.

                You’re asking me to go dig up your evidence, when you should have just presented it yourself.

        • te reo putake 7.2.1.2

          Jeez, grumpy much this morning, Lanthanide? Watch the video, these folk haven’t got time today to run around after you. I don’t live in your city, but even I can get that this is worth supporting.

        • Andrew Neill Robins 7.2.1.3

          If you want the answer to that question, I suggest you review the evidence of Brad Cadwallader which is available on the Councilsame website.

          The methodology the couch used is new, and they set the thresholds they wanted to apply AFTER they decided how many trees they wanted to lose.

          So if you are looking for reasons that some trees were selected and others not, then it’s a pretty futile exercise

    • greywarshark 7.3

      Oh come on Lanthanide. 2000 protected trees! Have you a garden and know how long it takes to get anything established, and that is just small things. And many trees are just too big to be planted in gardens. And the climate is getting hotter, trees are needed. Let yourself go and feel enthusiasm for the majestic ilving things that trees are, just off the cuff, out of your love of beauty.

      • Phil 7.3.1

        From the post:
        “2000 trees that are currently protected will lose that status if these changes go forward.”

        Serious question; is that a lot of trees for Christchurch? I remember studying in the top floor of Canterbury University in the early 00’s and staring out the window thinking “This city is really green”. To be honest, 2,000 trees doesn’t sound like that many.

        Oh, and one other thing; I used to rent a house in Johnsonville, Wellington, that had a massive Pohutakawa in the back yard. It creaked, groaned, swayed, and had bits of branches falling off it pretty constantly. In even a moderate breeze (Wellington, yeah…) I lived in fear of the whole thing crashing into my house. If my Landlord had said “I’m going to cut that tree down” I probably would have kissed him.

        • Andrew Neill Robins 7.3.1.1

          Hi Phil

          There are roughly 2400 trees on the register. There are hundreds of thousands of trees in Christchurch and on banks peninsula.

          But the protected trees are the biggest trees, or the most significant in terms of bio diversity. Some are very rare.

          What we are talking about here is the most important trees, in terms of heritage and wider environmental significance.

          The proposal to remove protection is in my opinion, largely based on prioritizing property rights ahead of the environment. But it is a bulls hit argument in most cases, as the trees were usually already protected when property was bought – so no one has actually lost anything if a decision is taken to continue protecting these trees

  8. savenz 8

    Good on you Andrew!!

    What’s wrong with these people?? Apparently Wellington council has now decided to appeal the 4m high fence debacle (which the council decision to allow it was then overturned by environment court). They are idiots. How about razor wire too over the fence because 4m is not enough!!! Sarc. Yep sound great as long as you put in a resource consent and pay loads of fees!

    Just remember how much Auckland council wasted on allowing the PORTS OF AUCKLAND to steal approx 1 KM of harbour. Not to mention the ancient trees in Titirangi recently ringbarked by the owners before the judicial review. Remember Kaipara council bankrupting the rate payers with their stupid decisions. Nobody held to account.

    The council planners want to encourage greed, destruction and revolting developments all around. Apparently trees, harbours and so forth may stand in the way of progress council style. NZ the least clean, green and into the banana republic, that ports of Auckland seem to literally espouse with their unloading of bananas on one of the best views in Auckland, blocked to the public.

    There is massive conflict of interest with the environment court system, from the council planners, ‘independent’ commissioners who are not independent by hired by the councils, the lawyers working for the councils receiving massive pay packet with all their crap decisions. They get 99% of applications through their system because it is rigged. All the paperwork is put in before hand so that the council can then threaten and harass witnesses and so forth prior to turning up. Environment court turns a blind eye to this and the council is protected in law from being prosecuted. In a criminal situation it would be considered a Kangaroo court. The fact that property is now worth millions around NZ and the public are being extorted of their rights by a few council planners. Look at the fence. Cost the poor couple million for their view lost by the council decision and the $100k to protect it, and still ongoing. Meanwhile some shoplifter lifting a chocolate bar can get a criminal conviction.

    t’s true steal peanuts and you are prosecuted and steal millions and have your own courts and get away with it. In fact corporate welfare style, the taxpayers are now funding the lawyers and planners keeping it going!

    The environmental lawyers are the greediest, laziest and stupidest of them all as well.

    Good luck getting justice with them on the job! Goodbye 100% pure NZ! The system is against you.

    • Andrew Neill Robins 8.1

      Thanks Savenz – unfortunately it is even worse than you describe – at least if this was an envronment court process we could apply for legal aid.

      It isn’t – so we can’t

      And we have no time to fund raise. Which means we have had to spend the money before we have it. Which means that people like me are on the hook for thousands of dollars if our give a little does not work out.

      • savenz 8.1.1

        I totally support you and your cause! Will forward it on.

        People like you need a medal who are protecting our environment for future generations.

        At present walking under a canopy of trees can make you forget your worries – it is uplifting (at least I think for most people!) Even more important after an earthquake when people need it the most!

        It’s terrible that the public servants who are paid by the rate payers no doubt to protect the environment are instead hell bent on destroying it for zero gain. Makes no sense but that is ideology for you.

        Happy to donate and share it on.

        Good luck.

        Are even simple pleasures of trees enjoyed by young and old to be taken away from us too? Some evil that the Natz and their crony commissioners need to destroy too?

  9. DFool 9

    Apparently the historic heritage provisions of the new Christchurch Regeneration Bill are also causing a flap, with senior MCH and Heritage NZ staff being called in by the Minister last week to address urgent issues.

  10. Andrew Neill Robins 10

    Thanks for your comments so far.

    Unfortuately, most of the team is busy before the panel today, so we have limited capacity to respond.

    We were all up past midnight getting ready – and up at 5:30 again this morning – as today is crunch day for the team.

  11. vto 11

    This may come as a surprise given the dictatorial perception of things in Christchurch but we have found the powers that be very open to listening and they have in fact made changes on the basis of submissions made. . .

    I give them points for that. Both council and government.

    So although the legal powers available are very dictatorial, the use of them has been light. Ish. At times.

  12. Andrew Neill Robins 12

    Thank you to everyone who commented today – and apologies for the occasional “short” response.

    Today was a big day for us – but we did well in cross examination, and we believe that we have put forward some compelling arguments.

    The whole team has worked very hard, and in some cases worked well outside our comfort zone.

    To address some of the criticisms made – we would have loved to put forward a more diverse face to the world – but the fact is that the way the hearing process was set up, you needed time and money to be effective. I guess that is one reason why we look, old white, and middle class.

    Anyway – we have done what we can. Thank you for your help and support today

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