Fate of Paturoa kauri again up in the air

March 21, 2019

Fate of Paturoa kauri again up in the air

Kauri in the Waipoua Forest. A threatened tree in Titirangi will be the focus of court action. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Protesters are seeking a permanent protection order for a Titirangi kauri tree that has been saved from death – twice.

Known to locals as Awhiawhi, the tree is on private property and has been the subject of a lengthy battle between concerned locals and the landowners who initially sought to have the tree cut down.

The Paturoa kauri is estimated to be between 150 to 500 years old, according to clashing estimates by Auckland and protesters.

After pushback from the community, including two separate instances of men climbing the tree as a form of protest, its owners indicated in a 2015 open letter they would leave the tree alone.

Despite the owners’ letter, the tree was ringbarked a few months later – a process in which bark is removed in a ring around the tree, usually resulting in death not long after.

Awhiawhi was saved by re-grafting the damage using leaves and other materials, allowing it to heal.

Save Our Kauri Trust trustee Winnie Charlesworth says the trust is seeking to permanently protect Awhiawhi based on “its scientific, ecological and cultural value”.

“We have the support of iwi, scientists and the local community, all of whom want to see the kauri remain standing for as long as is possible.”

The Environment Court issued an ex parte interim enforcement order on the tree, meaning the owners are "prohibited from harming or removing the large kauri tree on the site or from taking any steps whatsoever to harm or remove the large kauri tree in any other way”.

However, the landowners, John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith, are now seeking to have this order removed.

Ms Charlesworth says it was just a matter of time. “We knew at some stage the interim order would be challenged.

“One of the most alarming thoughts for us is that the developers would fell the kauri and then not build on the site,” she says.

A decision on the tree’s fate could be at least three months away.

A 2017 report on kauri dieback found that “soil disturbance associated with human activity” was the highest factor in spreading kauri dieback.

The same report also outlines that if dieback continues to spread unchecked “all kauri could be lost from many, or all stands within the park”.

Since leading the community push to save kauri, alongside her neighbour, Ms Charlesworth believes both she and her neighbour were the victims of retaliatory action, including having gardens and fences tampered with.

Ms Charlesworth has since installed cameras, but is still concerned about the security of her home.

The landowners did not respond to TWN's request for comment.

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