By Ollie Ritchie
A protester who has been perched in a kauri tree in west Auckland for two weeks has come down, after the tree was damaged by chainsaws this morning.
Those wielding the chainsaws didn't actually bring the tree down, but the protester has still described them as "a death squad".
It was a tense stand-off – the desperate plea of protestors drowned out by the sound of a chainsaw.
Protestor Johno Smith has been living in the ancient kauri tree in Auckland's Titirangi for almost two weeks and filmed the destruction.
"They were definite about what they were doing," he says. "They were pretty much the death squad."
He claims it was security guards that damaged or ring-barked the base of the tree.
Ring-barking usually causes the tree to die within a year.
The kauri has been at the centre of huge debate. The property owners have resource consent to remove it and a neighbouring rimu to make way for two homes.
This week the Save Our Kauri group applied for a judicial review in the High Court and the group has been in negotiations with the developers.
An agreement was supposed to be reached between both parties this morning, meaning Mr Smith would have come down from the kauri around 1pm.
But that happened earlier than expected following this morning's incident.
3 News tried to contact the two owners of the property but neither returned our calls.
The Save Our Kauri group today called in arborists to try and pack the wound in the tree, while Mr Smith handed himself into police and has now been charged with wilful trespassing.