Police and protesters standoff over destruction of native trees in Auckland

Police and protesters were locked in an "emotional and tense" standoff on Wednesday morning over the felling of native trees in the Auckland suburb of Avondale.

Over 100 people gathered at Canal Road in an ongoing protest to stop 23 100-year-old trees being knocked down to make way for property development.

On the 71st day of the demonstrations, about 10 police officers arrived at the scene wearing face masks and gloves and attempted to form a guard between the protesters and the trees.

A reporter for The AM Show who was at the scene described the standoff as "emotional and tense but not aggressive".

The incident occurred after contractors arrived at the site on Wednesday morning with a digger with the intention of getting into the property, protester Mark Lockhart told Newshub.  

"A guy chained himself to the digger and there was a standoff and eventually the cops stood down, the security guys left and the digger left."

He said the protesters "won the day" and were "exhilarated" when the police left the site.

"[They had] a major sense of relief and victory. We won today. We thought today could have been the day for the trees. They [contractors] could have got on site and ripped into tree removal. There could have been a fair bit of destruction."

He said he was concerned as some protesters had been trespassed from the site: "but there are many people lining up to help".

"Given how little confidence people have in our council and how strongly people feel about our community, protecting trees and our environment, we just need a small percentage of those people to front up every day and we'll hold them at bay and put more and more pressure on [Auckland mayor] Phil Goff to step up."

Conservation activist Zane Wedding, who has been living in the trees for 71 days, said protesters want Goff to buy the section the trees are on.

"We need Phil Goff to come and buy this land for this city because these 23 trees which remain on this property are incredibly rare and are incredibly valuable to this area. You can sell a grassed off park anywhere in Auckland and pay for this," he said.

Wedding told The AM Show the trees were valuable to Auckland and the city shouldn't lose them.

"They are not the biggest trees, but they are the most mature trees for miles and some of these mature native trees will be the only of their kind in this city and that's what we are fighting for," he said.

He said even if police forced the protesters to leave: "I'm not just getting down".

A police spokesperson told Newshub they were aware of the ongoing protest at the private property on Canal Road.

"Police have been at the site today and continue to monitor the situation," they said.

"Police recognise the lawful right to protest and our priority is to ensure the safety of all."