On Monday the 2nd, beginning at 9:30 am, the Hearings Committee of the Hastings Council will be considering Plan Change 51, which amends the protections in the District Plan for trees and heritage items. According to the HDC website, “The proposed changes aim to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the protection of heritage items and trees within the Hastings District.” Plan Change 51 proposes to include definitions of ‘Significant’ and ‘Outstanding’ trees.
Kay Bazzard has written the following article for BayBuzz describing the importance of protecting our urban and suburban trees, particularly in view of the recent Heretaunga Plans Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS), which proposes significant (tree-threatening) infill housing in Havelock North and Napier in the future.
Greening the District
By Kay Bazzard
Anyone who lives in an urban or suburban area that is blessed with a high proportion of mature trees knows the benefits. This is reflected in the high value of housing located in leafy suburbs throughout the western world. Beyond this, trees bring a natural ecosystem to the manmade-environment of bricks, mortar, tarmac and concrete; offering us privacy, shade on hot days with the movement of cooler air, softening the traffic noise and visual dimension.
Trees provide food and shelter for the birds and insects, leaves mulch the soil below, trees de-ionise the air making for a cool sense of calm, and they fill the air with perfume, birdsong and seasonal busyness.
Infill housing threatens this.
Most trees in the suburbs exist in private gardens and, it seems, are largely unprotected by law. When houses are built on infill plots, trees are gone in seconds as the chainsaw bites into years of slow growth. Developers are not concerned about the long-term effects of suburban deforestation in order to get a return on their investment, which will, ironically, be enhanced by the leafiness of the wider district.
Auckland’s answer to this problem has been the Auckland Tree Council established twenty-odd years ago, where property owners were required to seek a resource consent to even prune a tree. An overly rigorous measure, but one which reflected the urgency being felt at the disappearance of trees from the urban scene as sections were subdivided and built on. Recent changes to the Resource Management Act will see the Auckland Tree Council scrapped and Auckland will again be looking at how it can protect the trees that are left on private properties.
The changes in the RMA state that significant or heritage trees must be listed in the District Plan to be ‘safe’ – other trees will have no protection. Two years ago the Hastings District Council endeavoured to include significant or heritage trees into the District Plan, including those in private gardens. This met with limited success, corralling only 100 or so trees for protection – but what about all the other trees? Leafy districts such as Havelock North and Napier Hill will not be protected from the developer’s chainsaw.
A winter of rain has shown that tree roots protect hillsides from landslips, but also, that those hillsides which have been cut into or are tree-denuded, slip away. If trees are removed from the hill suburbs for infill housing, householders will be faced with the effects of storm water-created erosion on their homes and properties.
In our region, the Regional, Napier City and Hastings District Councils have the difficult task of planning how to accommodate a growing population of people and grow the economy, whilst protecting the amenity values of the region. The Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS) is the vehicle that will guide the development of our region through to 2045. It is a vital planning tool designed to ensure balanced development and, as with all local body plans, community consultation will contribute to its establishment. The community’s input is essential in achieving the desired balance.
A primary goal is to protect the region’s economic powerhouse, the income derived from the export of the world’s finest quality fruit and vegetables — produced on the fertile Heretaunga Plains and the water resource from aquifers flowing beneath it. This means no new developments on this designated land.
Amongst these and other matters, the Strategy will address the housing needs for the expected population, whilst protecting those aspects of life that made us want to live here in the first place. It will decide where new housing shall go and in what density.
By 2045 it is projected that 8000-plus new households will exist in Hawke’s Bay, with 800 new houses being built in Havelock North alone. Infill housing is one of the identified means of accommodating the expanding population. From the viewpoint of protecting the leafiness of our suburbs, this would be undesirable and other measures will have to be looked at.
HPUDS should instead, foster the building of high density, purpose-designed, good quality housing in the centre of our towns, which would revitalize them and increase safety in what are, after dark, increasingly threatening urban wastelands. Such attractive mews-type urban living would be likely to appeal to the 55 plus age group, couples, empty-nesters or singles, a segment of the population which is projected to grow significantly.
And, it might save our trees. So too, would an incentive to reward private home owners who have trees in their gardens – a tree maintenance subsidy on the rates bills.
Those of us in the community who wish to retain the character of our districts and care deeply about the protection of trees on private land need to make our feelings known before HPUDS is signed off as a finished document (see www.hpuds.co.nz).