Exotic tree fallout: Maunga Authority could fight court ruling

By Will Trafford

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority which co-governs Auckland’s mountain reserves on behalf of 13 Tāmaki iwi says it may appeal a court decision to prevent it felling 345 mature, exotic trees, in favour of planting 12,000 native plants and trees.

Aconsortium of residents living around Ōwairaka/Mt Albert asked the Court of Appeal to reject Auckland Council and the authority’s replanting plan on the grounds it breached the Reserves Act, by not adequately consulting the public.

Last week three Court of Appeal judges found in favour of the residents but the latest ruling overturns previous findings by the High Court last year.

Trees for the chop / Honour the Maunga

Authority chair Paul Majurey (Ngāti Maru) says it may seek to appeal the decision on the grounds the acts relied upon are outdated and fail to acknowledge jurisdiction granted to iwi through Tiriti settlements.

“The authority will take advice and consider its options, including seeking the guidance of the Supreme Court,” Majurey said.

“While the Court of Appeal found in favour of the authority and Auckland Council on many of the legal issues raised by the appellant, the Court relied on its assessment of the operation of the Treaty settlement co-governance regime and Reserves Act.

“The court’s decision raises real questions as to the relationship of Treaty settlements and the outdated Reserves Act,” he said.

The Ōwairaka/Mt Albert group garnered media attention for a months-long protest where they occupied the maunga and similar protests have since arisen at the city’s other maunga, including a collection of residents now opposing tree removal at Ōtāhuhu/Mt Richmond.

Majurey says councils will be "reviewing this decision very closely to consider the implications of their management of reserves".

“The authority continues to recognise the importance of Treaty settlements and the kaitiakitanga of the Tūpuna Maunga by the tribes of Waiōhua, Ngāti Whātua and Marutūāhu,” he said.