Our written and verbal submissions on TMA’s tree-felling public consultation 2022

These submissions were made in relation to Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s public consultation around its intention to fell all the exotic and some native trees on Mt Richmond Ōtāhuhu and other maunga.

Read our written submission

Read the transcript of the verbal submission Shirley presented on 31 October 2022

Our written submission to Tūpuna Maunga Authority

Shirley Waru’s personal connection to Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu spans 28 years as a resident and community member

“I have walked Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu most days with my dogs, for the past 28 years. I have observed over the years the many native birds who nest, roost, and eat from the trees which stand on the mountain. The mountain is my local park and reserve. It is a place I can connect with nature, recite my karakia, and maintain my well being, to live a happy and meaningful life. I cannot imagine this beautiful place without the mature trees, and the birdlife they support. My heart will be broken if this is destroyed”.

About Respect Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu

Respect Mount Richmond Ōtahuhu is a grassroots community group formed officially in 2020, to stop 75% of the tree canopy being clear felled at our local park and reserve. The formation of our group was in response to the actions of Tūpuna Maunga Authority clear felling a cliff face of olive trees in 2017, which destroyed the nesting and roosting habitat of our native ruru, and was done in the latter part of their nesting season.

In August 2020 Tūpuna Maunga Authority again decided to fell during nesting season, on this occassion 2 Pine trees, which were deemed dangerous. However due to the nesting of our native grey heron in the trees to be felled, felling was stopped.

Our community is predominantly Māori and Pacific Island people with a diversity of many other cultures. We are a low socioeconomic cohort, with our local area designated for high density intensification under the Auckland Unitary Plan. Our group members seek the simple things in life, which are affordable, such as our park and reserve.

We support succession methodology only, with no trees to be felled for 50 years, unless they are sick or pose a danger, allowing new native planting of trees to mature so our existing native birds have a constant food source, rather than their habitat being destroyed using a clear fell methodology. We do not support tree felling on any of the mountains administered by Tūpuna Maunga Authority, which are our parks and reserves of our respective communities.

Our primary concern in this submission is from a Māori perspective, which embraces the views of Te Ao Māori, Mātauranga Māori, and Tikanga Māori. Many of us base our daily lives as Tangata Whenua, on the values, beliefs, and etiquette of our ancestors. We can express these values no matter where we are.

This submission is particularly important to our community of Ōtāhuhu because we have the lowest tree canopy in Auckland, down to 8% according to the statistics in the 2018 LIDAR report.

Tupuna Maunga Authority clear felled Mangere Mountain in 2019, so it is much lower than 8% currently. What will be left if 443 trees are clear felled on Mount Richmond. If one takes in to consideration the great number of trees felled in our area during this period by developers, private property owners, Auckland Transport, and Auckland Council, the canopy left is small.

We are also concerned about the well being of our community, as this issue has been divisive, taking the wairua, mana, and mauri from each of us. We believe that by felling perfectly healthy trees on Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu, and other maunga, the wairua, mana, and mauri will be taken from every single member of our respective communities including Māori and non Māori.

Mātauranga Māori knowledge, beliefs and values, particularly in respect to the environment, and the community, are central to our opposition to clear fell perfectly healthy trees, which will destroy the habitat of our native birds, and other life forms.

The use of the Mātauranga Māori narrative belongs to all Tangata Whenua.
The lack of Tikanga Māori to support it, at a grassroots community level is disrespectful to our ancestors.

Personal connections people in our community have to Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu, past and present are also just as important as Māori connections. People who have grown up here have their own histories too. No one has the right to extinguish that history.

The effect a co governance model not being done well, will have an adverse effect on other Māori Iwi at this important juncture of our history as a people who have been waiting for this crossroad since 1840. Co governance must be done in a fair, kindly manner, so we do not miss the opportunity we have waited so long for. Mātauranga Māori and Tīkanga Māori must stay intact through this process, and never be compromised for the sake of a few.

We believe Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s Integrated Management Plan Amendments submission process lacks Tīkanga Māori protocol, and respect for the baskets of knowledge Mātauranga Māori provides us. There has been no thought given to a transitional period for our native birds, trees, including all other life forms, and the community members who live here. The well being of our community, and the well being of our flora and fauna has been ignored.

If Tūpuna Maunga Authority wished to have a true meaningful consultation with our respective communities, signs would be erected at each mountain to let our community know the consultation is in process. Kaumatua and Kuia of Mana Whenua would be interacting with our communities at this time

Mātauranga Māori does not differentiate species in the environment we treat the environment as a whole. When species of trees or birds are valued, based on a native vs exotic narrative, this is a non-Māori construct. Tūpuna Maunga Authority is using a non-Māori construct to fell perfectly healthy trees that Papatūānuku has allowed to grow. This is changing our Mātauranga Māori narrative, and breaking Tīkanga Māori.

We do not own the land we are here to protect it for future generations. We are not here to destroy it.

Tūpuna Maunga Authority has a duty of care to our community of Ōtāhuhu, to ensure our well being is taken in to consideration.

It is a request too great to ask of our community, to allow the only place we have to go where we are able to walk among mature trees, listen to the birdsong, and connect with Papatūānuku, to be clear felled losing 75% of the existing tree canopy. As already mentioned, our area has the lowest tree canopy in Auckland. The birds will literally have nowhere to go.

Hamlin Hill, which is 1.5 kilometers from Mount Richmond is an excellent local example of how long native trees take to grow. Hamlin Hill was planted with native trees 20 years ago, but still has several decades to go before the native trees reach a point of maturity or height, anything close to the mature trees that stand at Mount Richmond park and reserve.

Mount Richmond gives our community respite from the harsh outlook of the industrial and commercial businesses, which comprise 75% of our area, with only 25% being residential. When walking on Mount Richmond Ōtāhuhu the trees completely block the view of the industrial estate of Penrose and surrounding areas. If the trees are felled we will lose that much needed respite, which will affect our well being.

The planting plan for revegetation of native flora at Mount Richmond needs to be revised. There are very few trees being planted, instead mainly low growing native species. This new habitat will not satisfy many of the native birds, which exist on the mountain already. Our native tui, wood pigeons, paradise ducks, kingfisher and heron prefer tall mature trees to nest. Therefore the trees they use now must be left standing until there is a replacement.

Mātauranga Māori tells us the trees and birds are our Kaitiaki. Therefore it is the role of all Māori to protect them. We are here to perform kaitiakitanga, we are not the kaitiaki, the mountains, waterways, trees, birds, and all other biodiversity, which exists in the environment are the kaitiaki.

Papatūānuku is playing her role well at Mount Richmond. This is her realm and her role, not the realm or role of humans.

There is much self propagation of native trees which have self seeded under the canopy of adjacent exotic trees. It is a myth to suggest native trees do not grow well under exotics, because there are ample examples of this occurring on Mount Richmond, Owairaka, and other maunga. In time the native trees will take over as part of a natural evolution in the environment.

On Mount Richmond the exotic trees play a significant role in the preservation of native species, providing a nursery type environment of shelter, shade, and light in the winter months for new seedlings.

Papatūānuku does not require human intervention, she is there constantly ensuring the environment is regenerating.

In traditional Māori knowledge everything in the world is related. People, birds, trees, fish, weather patterns, are all members of a cosmic family. One element of this knowledge cannot be isolated, as each element relies on the other elements in a symbiotic relationship. The community of Ōtāhuhu, rely on the trees and birds existing on Mount Richmond to maintain our well being. If the exotic trees are felled, the wairua, mana, and mauri of every single person who lives here will be taken.

Ngā mihi ki a koutou,
Na Respect Mt Richmond Ōtāhuhu Community Group
Shirley Waru

Shirley Waru’s verbal submission – presented on 31 October 2022

I grew up in Onehunga in a state house, my father was part of the diaspora of Maori who moved to the city for work. I have been on the Maori electoral role since I could vote, and have supported Tino Rangatiratanga through my adult life. I have been guided by my father and aunties based on the values of Matauranga Maori and Tikanga Maori. I live my life based on these traditional values, particularly in regards to the environment, every day.

Today I speak as Tangata Whenua, on behalf of my community of Otahuhu.

The maunga is not sick, it is thriving with biodiversity, which papatuanuku has supported for all time. If the maunga was sick, there would be no life there. Our mountain has been neglected for decades, it is not beautifully manicured like many of the other maunga in more affluent areas. We have been neglected as a community because it is poor, and predominantly Maori. We had hoped after the maunga was returned this would change, but it did not, we had hoped we would be respected and valued more by our own people, but that has not happened.
Mount Richmond has thousands of birds living in the trees that stand there.

This particular round of consultation began during the months of spring, which is a busy time at Mount Richmond for the birds, who return to the same trees every year to nest. The effect the clear felling will have on the existing birdlife has been disregarded. This is not Tikanga Maori. The birds need the trees to survive. We have already seen what happens to the birds if their habitat is destroyed, the birds disappear. When the cliff face of olive trees was clear felled, which was the habitat of our morepork, the morepork vanished.

Tupuna Maunga Authority is not acting in accordance with Auckland Council Climate change policy, which states we are officially in a crisis. We are either in a climate change crisis, or we are not. The desire to fell thousands of perfectly healthy trees by Tupuna Maunga Authority, indicates you do not think we are in a climate change crisis.

In February this year, Justin Latif published an article, he wrote “for many it might be a leafy paradise, but for those in the South of the city, Auckland can seem more like a barren, concrete covered desert. Phill Goff and Alf Fillipaina said our area needed to see the tree canopy in the area increased, because according to Auckland Council data our region has the lowest tree coverage of any area in the city. What they did not mention is they were supporting TMA to fell hundreds of trees on Mount Richmond, and had already sanctioned the clear fell of hundreds of trees on Mangere Mountain.

The last 2 years has been a difficult time during Covid lock downs. It has been a time where we have all been restricted, at many times only being permitted to shop for food or exercise. The mountain was a sanctuary for many of us through this period. The trees and birds gave us respite from these restrictions. TMA never even took a breath, you continued with your plans to take a sports field, you continued with your resource consent application to clear fell 443 trees. Where was the manaakitangi and aroha for our community during this time, and where are those Maori qualities represented now in this consultation.

For our community this consultation is unfair, because you already have approved resource consent to fell hundreds of trees, and yet you are consulting with us now, after the consent has been approved, rather than before.

The greatest insult to our community is the social injustice you will create by taking from a community which is already deprived. You do not have the support of our community which is predominantly Maori, to achieve UNESCO cultural heritage status. My understanding is that community support is required for you to achieve this goal.

Our community will make a stand to protect our trees, birds and green space if required. We do not think it is socially just to interfere with an area which has been set aside as our park and recreation space, in order to satisfy the desire of those who are seeking revenge for historical injustices with the Crown. Maori have always said that their grievances are with the Crown, and yet clearly these grievances are now the concern of our respective communities, with no assistance being given to us by our local board or councillors. This issue has caused great division, which is a negative outcome for all.

The maunga is the kaitiaki, the birds are our kaitiaki, the trees are our tuakana. It is not the responsibility of our community to perform Kaitiakitanga, that is the role of Mana Whenua. However if mana whenua are not willing to protect the kaitiaki, we as a grassroots community group will. We will occupy the maunga and stay there until we know our trees and birds are safe.

We ask Tupuna Maunga Authority to stand down, you have already done irreversible damage on other maunga which will take decades to recover. The clear felling obviously destroys the presence of existing bird life, as we have witnessed.

If another Judicial Review is required for Mount Richmond, so be it. Lets hope our new Mayor does not put Auckland ratepayers through another very costly court battle. We will not go away, we will continue to stand up for ourselves and future generations to keep our park and recreation space with all its beautiful mature trees and birdlife, which we rely on for our well being.

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