You *wood* not believe it: Greens secure win for urban trees

The Green Party’s advocacy has secured an amendment to the Natural and Built Environment Bill at a crucial stage of the Parliamentary process to ensure  the Government provides national direction on protecting urban trees.

“This is a big Green Party win. Alongside thousands of New Zealanders, the Green Party has been pushing for better recognition and protection for urban trees for more than a decade,” says Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.  

“Increasing urban tree cover has massive benefits for our cities and towns. Our mature trees - especially native trees - are taonga and deserve to be protected. They are crucial habitats for birds and insects, they harvest stormwater, stop erosion, provide shade, a place for children to play and enhance the livability of our cities and towns. 

“The Natural and Built Environment Bill was amended in the committee stages to allow the first national planning framework to provide direction on urban trees and green spaces. This direction will help regional planning committees prepare their plans. Territorial authorities will be responsible for tree protection and the urban tree canopy.

“This and other changes to the bill help fix a problem rooted in the last National government. Working with ACT, National  axed protections for urban trees, taking a slash and burn approach to general tree protection rules in council plans.

“National and ACT changed the Resource Management Act so councils were explicitly prohibited from having general rules covering classes of trees, such as pohutukawa. As a result, councils can only have rules requiring a resource consent to fell trees if the trees are specifically identified and listed in the plan. This same approach was carried over into the NBE. 

“It’s been expensive and virtually impossible to list all the special trees individually across a whole city. As predicted, National and ACT’s approach has seen thousands of trees felled, with no consideration of the impacts on urban amenity.

“The Environment Select Committee heard from thousands of submitters who wanted stronger protection for our urban ngahere before the bill was even introduced to Parliament. With support from the Green Party, problematic provisions in the bill as introduced have been removed and new ones included. 

“It is clear: *leaf* protecting trees to the Green Party,” says Eugenie Sage. 

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