Urban Tree Loss: Protecting our heritage environment
Our urban trees, especially large mature trees, provide many health and wellbeing benefits and deserve better protection from development pressures. Urban trees offer a sense of place and a connection with the past. They are an environmental and cultural touchstone, and play a massive role in urban New Zealand.
Heritage values that communities ascribe to heritage buildings and places also apply to our treed landscape.
The removal of Remuera’s mature urban trees (both native and exotic) has been enabled by the Resource Management Act (RMA) and Auckland’s Unitary Plan (UP). This loss has been under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Changes to the RMA in 2012, and amendments in 2015, lifted blanket tree protection in urban areas and removed protection for the vast majority of trees on private land. Developers have taken advantage. Trees on public land generally have much better protection, as there is less risk of conflict with housing and infrastructure initiatives.
The slow, but sure, removal of Remuera’s urban forest will overtime affect its heritage character and environment.
Auckland’s average tree cover is only 18.4 percent, which is moderately low relative to comparable international cities, so any loss of trees is concerning. The urban tree estate impacts on the quality of urban life through the provision of a series of benefits that are ecological, aesthetic, social and economic, and provides a myriad of benefits. What is the value of our urban forest?