Avondale tree protest: Police descend on demonstration over felling of tree, 1 arrested

Protesters took the the trees on Thursday.
Protesters took the the trees on Thursday. Photo credit: Newshub

Police have descended on a protest in a central Auckland suburb where environmental advocates are attempting to stop the felling of a historic tree.

A new housing development by company Ockham is planned for the site on Great North Road in the suburb of Avondale but in doing so they would have to remove significant trees.

On Thursday they planned to remove the macrocarpa tree, believed to around 130 years old, but protesters gathered early in the morning in an attempt to stop it.

Protester Caleb Azor has strapped himself to the tree since Tuesday, and he said the community stands behind him.

"[It's] such a significant tree, it's so huge and so old and so prominent. We've had cars tooting in support."

From the branches of the tree, he told Newshub the drama had shown no sign of calming down.

"The contractors have come, the police have come, they've fenced off around the tree and have arrested one of them [protesters] already."

The police arrived at the scene on Tuesday morning.
The police arrived at the scene on Tuesday morning. Photo credit: Newshub

Inspector Grant Tetzlaff, who is the area commander for the Auckland City West Police, confirmed they were aware of and had officers at the property.

"Police have been at the site since a karakia at 5:45am this morning, and have been monitoring the situation," he said.

"A small number of people were trespassed from the site and then chose to leave. However, one person refused to leave and was subsequently arrested."

Insp Tetzlaff said they understand the public's right to protest and it is their role to keep everyone safe.

"We continue to work to ensure the safety of all parties - protesters, developers and council staff – as they work together to reach a consensus."

The man behind the construction, Ockham building developer Mark Todd said he understood the views of the protesters.

"I'm fully aligned with their vision," he told Newshub. "In 2009 the Government made a poor decision to remove the ability of councils to impose general tree protection. That was a mistake and has led to a loss of a third of Auckland's tree canopy."

However, he said the macrocarpa is nearing the end of its life and has now become hazardous.

"It's a severe risk, it's been classed as an extreme risk to public safety, we are doing a high-density development here of 117 units which will avoid 6 hectares of urban sprawl."

In a statement, Ockham said the Aroha project's apartments, which include 47 Kiwibuild homes, are more than two-thirds sold and construction of them is set to begin later this month.

They plan to protect three of the four scheduled trees on the site, and 21 mature natives will be planted around the new buildings.