Concern is mounting over changes planned in the Resource Management Act which would allow people to chop down trees on their own property without seeking permission.
Yes, you read that right. People who own trees will be able to chop them down without resource consent unless it is listed in a council’s district plan.
Councils are concerned that this will mean pockets of bush and coastal pohutukawas will be able to be cleared unless they are protected.
The Resource Management (Simplification and Streamlining) Amendment Bill, which contains more than 100 changes aimed at reducing cost and delays, allows group of trees to be listed in district plan schedules, but does not say what constitutes a group.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Nick Smith said the changes were intended to make councils focus on which trees needed protection.
It would be up to councils to prove that larger groups needed protection.
Surely that’s an improvement. Isn’t it better and less expensive, for councils to specify which trees, or groups, need to be protected than to require every individual property owner to go through the resource consent process every time they want to cut down a tree?
The change in law may even encourage people to plant more trees, in particular natives. Stephen Franks points out that the current law discourages this.
Most tree control provisions in local planning schemes effectively nationalise the tree and the land on which it grows a few years after planting, when it reaches a size that other people might enjoy. Without compensation you lose control of the tree and the land on which it grows, for the benefit of people who like to look at it.
The result? Wise folklore that says “don’t plant trees”. Certainly don’t let anything grow to the expropriation point.
Trees are living things, they grow and sometimes they grow too big for their site.
I’m looking at a flowering cherry outside my office window. It’s almost in full bloom and looking gorgeous but its roots are cracking a nearby path, its shading other plants and we’re going to chop it down. We planted it in the wrong place. We’ll plant another one in another place where it won’t matter how big it gets, but we have a country garden which enables us to do that.
People in town don’t have that luxury and when they find the 100 acre tree they, or people who owned the property before them, planted gets too big for their quarter acre – or smaller -section they should be able to chop it down.
Trees are beautiful, they attract birds and provide shade and shelter. But a tree which grows too big for its site becomes a nuisance. They get in the way of overhead lines, provide too much shade, get in the way of paths and driveways, and might even become dangerous.
Property owners should have the right to deal with a nuisance on their own land without the hassle of going through the consent process unless there is a very, very good reason for requiring them to do so.
They should also have the comfort of knowing that planting trees on their own property doesn’t automatically turn it in to a reserve.
Planting trees should be encouraged not disencentivised by effectively nationalising them and the land on which they grow. The ammendment to the RMA should do this.