a long hard road fighting for the sanctity of private property rights, especially as those your work seeks to protect are often the worst offenders when it comes to Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) behaviour. It is a little odd that those property owners who object to others removing their own trees with council approval or building consented apartment blocks on their own land are called NIMBYs, because they aren’t fighting against impositions upon their own backyard. They’re interfering in other people’s back yards but I guess NIYBY doesn’t really roll off the tongue. Perhaps ‘DUH’ would be more appropriate.
I’ve stuck my nose into the business of people sticking their noses into other people’s business for quite some time and was delighted to come across this opinion piece I had written in 2003. The Church of Christ the Scientist had been having a tough time trying to sell their Symonds Street Heritage B classified building since 1999. Incredibly there hadn’t yet been an application made to designate the four-year-old ‘FOR SALE’ signs with a Heritage classification too.
The Resource Management Act has only got larger since 2003, its most recent ‘reform’ occurring in the third term of the National-led Government. United Future and Act came to a deal which would have given National the numbers to get worthwhile RMA changes passed by Parliament, but Prime Minister John Key was a political politician, not a conviction politician. He chose to use the two votes of the Maori Party to make changes to the RMA that further entrenched the privileged position of Maori tribal elite to make ludicrous objections on spurious grounds. Key had an eye on keeping coalition partners for a fourth term, making it truly sad to watch National candidates campaign on RMA reform in the 2017 election.
The greater scope of the Resource Management Act has not been with exception, however. I was as delighted as the left were dismayed (causing further delight) by an RMA amendment in 2012 which removed the blanket protection for all trees in urban areas of Auckland. Instead of applying for permission to fell each tree as desired, the onus was now on the environmental fascists to schedule individual trees through the Unitary Plan, and the threshold for success is high.
Since that amendment, a tree needs to be located on a reserve, a designated special ecological area, a riparian barrier or coastal strip. Other criteria for scheduling include heritage, scientific and cultural value. In 2016, there were reportedly 6000 trees scheduled as protected in Auckland; however, despite some tedious searches, I can’t find a more recent figure. Auckland Council says the average urban forest canopy has increased by 60 hectares between 2013 and 2018. The most promising information visible in my search for a list of scheduled trees (essentially a merry-go-round of Council links all promising to answer my query) was the phone number of Auckland Council. I already have an aversion to phone calls in ordinary circumstances. The prospect of talking to a real person working for the Council isn’t going to alter that.
What I did find was inadequate and incomplete, though I suspect there aren’t enough pathetically sad people willing to voluntarily update The New Zealand Tree Register.
It lists 1571 protected trees in New Zealand including 192 in the Auckland region. Having spent ten minutes going through the register, I conclude that finding enough dedicated volunteers to include as many trees as they have is quite an achievement. I kept getting distracted by thinking of and looking for sharp objects.
It ain’t easy being a West Auckland resident. If you’re not dealing with the adversity of crime, poverty and the Portage/Waitakere Licensing Trust monopolies, then you’re faced with middle-aged middle-class white people with sufficient free time to make themselves incredibly annoying (they call it ‘helping’) and sufficient wealth to barely notice the financial impact of their meddling on the wider community. Waitakere Local Board is one of the worst, with imperious political parasites including:
- Greg Presland: lawyer and failed candidate for nomination to be a Labour party candidate. His 2019 Council campaign with Shane Henderson saw Presland beaten by light-blue flake Linda Cooper and Henderson elected to Council.
- Saffron Toms: Green Party supporter and one of three local board members photographed proudly trespassing on a Titirangi property to prevent the felling of a Kauri tree
- Neil Henderson: Local board/Licensing Trust double-dipper whose only notable achievement is cutting weeds with a 110-year-old scythe
- Sandra Coney: DHB/Local Board/Licensing Trust triple-dipper who fought and lost a campaign to stop a cafe opening in Piha.
- Mark Allen: Executive Officer of the virtue-signalling Community Waitakere twatterium which receives 64% of its funding from several Local Boards and Council grants. Among achievements he lists are bilingual billboards at Henderson station asking people to work together.
- Mark Roberts (not the prolific British streaker): By far the most theoretically intelligent one on the board, having previously worked as a commercial pilot and company director. Now he has lots of free time and enough money to insulate himself from the stupidity of the Local Board’s policies.
Presland, Toms and Coney were all enthusiastic participants in the long-term invasion and occupation of a Titirangi property owned by John Lenihan and Jane Greensmith in March 2015. A Kauri tree about to be chopped down, with Council approval, attracted an invasion by dozens of rabid neighbours. Arborist Johno Smith spent thirteen days in the tree to prevent it being felled. The Australian citizen/NZ resident (now NZ citizen) and unrepentant criminal Michael Tavares climbed and sat in the tree for 81 hours. He only ceased his botanical squatting once the owners agreed not to cut down the tree.
The landowners proposed that those opposed to the development of the properties be given the opportunity to purchase them. The couple requested they be compensated for the market value of the land and left the door open for Treescape, Vector, iwi and Council to own the site on the behalf of the public. Three months later, in June 2015, Auckland Council took the unusual decision to review the granting of resource consent for the Kauri tree to be removed and determined consent was lawfully granted therefore work could continue on the site.
Time is money. In construction time is a lot of money. A development project requires the scheduling of multiple trades and companies to prepare the land and construct buildings on the site. Each delay to commencing development affects multiple employers, contractors and their families, with responsibility resting on the owner’s shoulders. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars a nine month delay costs. Whatever guess I might attempt would likely be far below the real figure.
As of December 2015, Lenihan and Greensmith were still the owners of an undeveloped plot of land with no timetable for development or compensation from the Titirangi Kauri Khakishirts. Therefore the owners, the genuine victims in this drawn out saga, made the decision to resume the legal development that had begun nine months earlier. Unfortunately, neighbour Andrew Maehl works from home, saw the contractors arriving at 10am and had the nerve to ask the contractors what they were doing on someone else’s property. With a mulcher parked on the road, contractors confirmed they were on site to remove the Kauri.
Nasty, nosey-neighbours managed to delay the development of the land for a further three years until the Environment Court ruled in April 2019 the Council had acted lawfully in granting consent to remove the Kauri. The property owners then sought to recuperate the money they spent fighting the case in the Environment Court. They sought $44,514; Judge Jeff Smith determined $30,000 was a reasonable response given the public interest element in the dispute.
Lenihan and Greensmith did nothing wrong. They obtained Council consent to remove the tree and build a home on their own property, but mob action, endorsed by several local elected officials, led to a four year delay in construction. The court only granted two-thirds of their court costs in compensation and the expense of four years of delays, paying rates on unused land, became the re-victimisation of the victims.
The violation of landowners by belligerent Green Party terrorists continues to be an issue in West Auckland. Considering the pittance Lenihan and Greensmith received in compensation from the neighbourhood street gang, considering the non-punishment of Tavares for his occupation and the pitiful $1000 fine of arborist Johno Smith for his actions (the owners’ request for $20,000 in reparations was rejected), why would anything change?
A property on Canal Road in Avondale changed hands early this year when it was sold for the first time in over a century. The property has faced continuous invasion by a well-organised pack of Avondale residents, with Green Party candidate and longtime Greenpeace activist Steve Abel acting as the ring-leader. Felling of the trees began on July 21 2020 and I’m happy to see, in contrast to the ordeal faced by the aforementioned Titirangi couple, police are taking an active role in dealing with the climate-criminals attempting to stop work on the site.
Initially, Steve Abel and five others were arrested and removed on July 21st, following Abel’s brush with death after deliberately placing himself amongst the trees while chainsaws were cutting them down. Reminds me of the disappointment I felt when I bought a lotto ticket which had three rows of three numbers.
Abel is slimy and resourceful; his kamikaze tactics were filmed and sent to Worksafe who ordered an immediate end to work on July 29. That temporary stop work order was lifted on Tuesday 24th of August as contractors put up fencing to prevent protestors entering the work area. While that was enough for Worksafe, the fences were never going to end this battle as protestors scaled the remaining trees again.
School Strike organiser turned Green candidate Luke Wijohn has scaled one of the trees on the property. He said “There is no place in a climate emergency for cutting down these ancient native trees.” I suppose eighty years may appear ancient when you’re a teenager but life expectancy in New Zealand is longer, and I’d love to hear this slogan-spewing pull toy explain why native trees somehow have a different status to any other. Sounds like racism to me.
I was a bit of a shithead at high school, libertarian before I had ever heard of the word, and attempted to sabotage a fundraiser requiring all students to get paid work for the day which would then be donated to the school. I put up signs challenging teachers to work for free, interrupted lessons to poll classmates on their views, made countless journeys to the Dean’s office and was threatened with five days detention if I failed to participate. I did a full shift at my supermarket job but gave the school $20.
Wijohn evidently was also a shithead at high school. I’m unsure which school he attended or the response of the faculty there; however, many other schools not only endorsed truancy in the School Strike for Climate Change marches but actually facilitated and participated! I’m not on the cover of Forbes magazine but I’m also not a extremist trying to ruin people’s lives, risking arrest and death in the hope enough losers show up to legalise marijuana and elect 21 Green MPs.
The latest development in the Canal Road Street Gang saga involves another bloody arborist occupying another bloody tree but I can’t help but be a little impressed at the innovative tactics of Zane Wedding. Wedding is a competitive tree climber as well as an arborist, leading me to believe he had the intellectual capabilities of a four year old child. However he has managed to build a platform suspended from one of the remaining trees that is also tied to surrounding vegetation, enabling him to occupy multiple trees simultaneously.
There have been constant arrests of trespassers by police throughout the 49 day vigilante invasion, unlike the virtual non-response of the 2015 Titirangi case, so I commend the police for their efforts. Invading, occupying and imposing financial hardship on people for going about lawful activities you don’t like is genuinely serious offending and it is critical for the protection of all homeowners that police are seen to be treating these acts of hooliganism seriously.
The owners of the Titirangi Kauri got absolutely screwed by mobs of vigilante neighbours, of whom just two were required to reimburse the couple for a fraction of their costs. Once the arborists have completed their job on the Canal Rd property, the owners of this land should be able to take each invader to court and expect reparation for all cost incurred. Should they fail to receive justice, socialist hordes will inflict greater injustice.