Conservation win, process and property rights lose

The owners of the  old kauri, the age of which is moot, have come up with a plan to save it.

In an open letter they write:

This is an open letter to the people of Auckland from myself John Lenihan and my wife Jane Greensmith, as today is our 20th wedding anniversary. Over these 20 years Jane and I have practiced as Architects who live and work in Auckland.

We have only ever built 2 houses for ourselves both in Titirangi.

The first house the year we got married, and I became a partner in RCG Ltd where I still work today. The second house we built 15 years ago and is the house our kids have grown up in. Both houses were on challenging sites, but as Jane’s Dad who was an Architect too, used to say “those are architect’s sites- difficult, complicated, fun and full of potential!”

As Architects we work in a city that we believe is under stress, as there is significant population growth. This is mostly from people like us having kids and because it is a great city.

But Auckland is under huge stress- it needs homes for extra people, and it needs affordable homes, and it needs homes of all types everywhere. This means change and many people hate change, and this adds more stress.

We wanted to be part of changing all this in our own small but optimistic way, so along with helping our clients achieve this, we thought we would try and build again and be our own client. We came across 2 lovely sites on Paturoa Rd and again they were “Architects sites”.

The rules for building in this part of Auckland and a lot of other areas are in our opinion very complex, often contradictory and from an outdated planning paradigm that gets added to in ad hoc ways that just keep making things worse.

The process to follow in making and processing applications is also too complex, contradictory and ad hoc.

There is very little certainty, so it is no wonder that Auckland is not building enough. Adding to this is the rapidly rising cost of land and building materials and you have the recipe for more stress. There are no easy answers to any of this, but we believe we all have to try.

This what we teach our kids.

We believe that the situation that has occurred at Paturoa Rd Titirangi is the outcome of the stress Auckland is under and the systems and processes we are given to work under. We believe that there needs to be a financial return for undertaking building work.

Banks require it when they give you a mortgage, they don’t call it a profit they call it the banks ”margin of risk”. Building is very risky, difficult, time consuming and prohibitively expensive.

Jane & I did not make the rules but we have to work with them and follow the law.

If we don’t, we lose the right to be Architects. We believe in law and order, but as Architects we also understand conflicting needs and different opinions, but to resolve these you need good systems and processes. We don’t believe these are good enough in the present regulatory process. The Auckland Unitary Plan might be an opportunity to change this, but not by keeping those old systems and paradigms. Maybe we need to try some brand new things.

Over the past few days we have been overwhelmed with the agendas of Council, Politicians, Protesters, and so on. We were quite normally private people but now we have been dragged into being public figures. We don’t have media training and crisis management skills and there are some who want us to take all the blame.

Our family, friends and colleagues and clients have been supporting us. So we have had to learn, adapt and change, because we are Architects and that’s what Architects are trained to do.

However we don’t want to play the games of others , games of blame, conflict, and abuse, instead we have been trying to come up with solutions where no-one loses everything but we all compromise, and is something new and hopeful that looks forward and not backward.

This is our Plan – Architects call it a design solution;

1. Let the trees stay including the Kauri which we have been calling 500, and the Rimu called 300. It doesn’t matter how old they are as they now need to stay. Some other trees might have to go – this is the compromise bit, but let’s keep it to a minimum. Trees grow faster than you all think.

Our wise elderly neighbour reckons the Kauri ”500” is only 70 years old like him.

2. Let’s turn these two sites from a place of conflict and division to a place of hope, a place to come together and plan a different future.

3. Let’s be innovative and consider new processes and new rules and prototype these and make it part of the Unitary Plan Process.

4. Let’s build on these sites as we need to keep property law intact and create homes. Our NZ is about family and community and nature. Can we try and have it all with small compromises?

5. Let’s build affordable, sustainable homes and try and fit as many as we can on these sites so that it works economically, socially and environmentally.

If we throw out the current rules we could do something a lot better than where we had got to with these houses.

6. Let’s take Jane and I out of the equation and give us fair compensation for our land and efforts to date as we have not broken the law and we need to encourage others to build and not be punished. Let’s respect the laws we have and try to improve them in the future.

7. Let’s allow Treescape and Vector, Iwi and Council to own the sites on the public’s behalf and let’s forgive them too. Give them a chance to try something new and create something better from this current mess. The compromise is they have to work together as a team and communicate quickly and professionally.

That’s our Plan and this is what Architects do.

We make plans for the future.

We hope everyone can support this, because then it will be the best 20th wedding anniversary!

If this is agreed to, it will be a win for conservation.

It is a loss for processes which are patently inadequate.

Those processes need to change to ensure no property owner is treated like this again.

And unless the  owners get compensation it will also be a loss for property rights.

People who follow due process and obey the law should not be out of pocket because other people don’t like the processes and disobey the law.

And Auckland still needs more houses.


I wonder how many of those who protested against the felling will be willing to help pay the compensation?

38 Responses to Conservation win, process and property rights lose

  1. Bulaman says:

    Frankly those who have overturned a legal process should be charged the costs of any compensation. Garnish the dole of the Aussie tree climber at $50 per week plus any other Groups using this for publicity. A (probably) 70 year old Kauri Ricker is not rare or unique.


  2. pdm says:

    Is it a win for Conservation?

    I don’t think so – it is a win for Greenie activists who have no respect for the law, personal property rights or due process.

    As Bulaman says – bill the compensation to them.


  3. Andrei says:

    Meanwhile, protester Michael Travares – who has spent four days in the tree in a bid to save it from felling – is to stay there until developers put it in writing that it will not be cut down.

    What the owners should do is pack their bags, go on holiday in Phuket for a couple of weeks until everybody has become bored with this soap opera and when they get back quietly bowl it.


  4. farmerbraun says:

    Well I favour due process. A trespass order has been issued by the police.
    What are the police waiting for?
    Law and order. Yeah right!


  5. robertguyton says:

    A win for the tree!
    Brilliant, the tree stands. Good decision from the developers, following peaceful pressure from the friends of the tree. This is how it’s done – the community (of interest) has spoken. Rightwingers hate it when ordinary people speak up about wrong behaviours but here’s an example of common sense trouncing self-serving thoughtlessness. And well done the man in the tree! The power of one – awesome!


  6. robertguyton says:

    farmerbraun – did you support the tractor on the steps of Parliament?


  7. robertguyton says:

    Ele says; “Those processes need to change to ensure no property owner is treated like this again.”
    I say: “Those processes need to change to ensure no significant tree is treated like this again.”

    Therein lies the difference.

    Three cheers for the tree!


  8. Andrei says:

    The significance of a tree is in the eye of he beholder Robert Guyton.

    The significance of this particular tree to me is my amusement at how people are able to work themselves into a lather over something so trivial as a scraggly old tree on someone elses property that stands where they, the property owners, wish to build their home.

    Still in a day or so we will have moved on to the next storm in a teacup.

    When was the last time you were in Titirangi Robert?


  9. farmerbraun says:

    Should trespass orders be upheld?
    Yes or no?


  10. robertguyton says:

    Such knotted frustration at the news that the tree will stand!
    I’m delighted to hear that by speaking their minds, people have turned the saw from the tree.
    Should we only comment on events in our hometown, Andrei? Really?
    How parochial of you, and what a curious attack on freedom of speech! No talking about Pahiatua now! You live in Ekatahuna!


  11. robertguyton says:

    Question for you at 11:21 fb. First things first!


  12. Dave Kennedy says:

    I think the owner should be congratulated for their generosity and good will considering the difficult position that they have been placed in. As I stated earlier, the process did seem to be a flawed one and has been acknowledged as such by Maggie Barry and others.

    This argument was basically about property rights over the rights of nature and what the level of community consultation should be.

    It is interesting to note the level of abuse and hatred expressed about the protestors when few expressing those views have first hand knowledge of the community and the area.

    The view that the law is the law and once a decision is made shouldn’t be revisited is a dangerous one. This would mean the likes of Arthur Allan Thomas may still be in prison or considered a guilty man and legal decisions made without all the evidence cannot be challenged.

    National’s previous plans for the RMA included limiting the ability for neighbours or the wider community to be consulted over new consents and developments. To achieve sustainable decisions and ensure environmental protection sometimes things do take time and it will be dangerous when the ability to use the legal system is determined by wealth. In Geoffrey Palmer’s autobiography he voices concern about this very thing, the wealthy can very easily determine outcomes to suit themselves because few can afford to challenge them.


  13. farmerbraun says:

    robertguyton says:
    March 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm
    0 0 Rate This
    Question for you at 11:21 fb. First things first!

    Answer: No.

    Since that time I have obtained an exemption from the ETS, and have subsequently had my deregistration from the ETS accepted.
    Due process , right?


  14. robertguyton says:

    Pleased to here it. Due process is a good thing to follow. That doesn’t preclude individuals speaking their mind on issues that they hold strong opinions about. Those pro-tree people did just that. What’s your beef?


  15. farmerbraun says:

    farmerbraun says:
    March 12, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Should trespass orders be upheld?
    Yes or no?
    Are you avoiding the question Robert?


  16. farmerbraun says:

    “[The view that the law is the law and] . . . once a decision is made shouldn’t be revisited is a dangerous one.”

    Where does that view exist Dave ? The law evolves in the light of case law.
    We have several levels of appeal available to” revisit” decisions.

    Straw man argument.


  17. Dave Kennedy says:

    It was legal in the US to discriminate against the blacks and it is legal to do all manner of things in New Zealand that ignore basic human rights and to ignore important environmental considerations. The law is sometimes an ass and deserves to be challenge in a nonviolent way. I was quite prepared to use civil disobedience to stop the lignite mining in Southland until the reality of Solid Energy’s stupidity took them down anyway. What they were going to do was perfectly legal but wrong on so many other levels.


  18. farmerbraun says:

    So you have a problem with the law of trespass dave? The tort of nuisance?

    If you and the Green Party are with the law-breaking lout in the tree, then just say that . Nobody will be surprised.


  19. robertguyton says:

    Sorry, farmerbraun, I was busy writing an editorial for one of our regional newspapers. I was thinking too, coincidentally, about the black woman who refused to vacate her seat on the bus and those, like Martin Luther King, who spoke out about something that was considered okay by many – the segregation of blacks from whites in America. I suppose you support King’s actions, I don’t know. Perhaps you side with the racists who violently resisted the change that eventually occurred, I don’t know that either. When people speak up about issues that they don’t feel are adequately covered by regulation, I like to listen to what they are saying. I don’t simply cite the law and dismiss them.
    Do you?
    As to trespass orders, I don’t know much about them at all. I suppose it depends on the situation. There are always trends and movements in law. Many regulations are in a state of flux, modifying as situations and society change. Can you be more specific? An example would help. If you mean, should that guy have gone up the tree, I think it’s up to him. He knows the consequences, presumably. I’m happy that he did though. I think it was a very effective, while peaceful/harmless action. That’s the best sort of protest, usually.


  20. farmerbraun says:

    Robert the law of trespass , and the tort of nuisance have not changed in hundreds of years, and seem unlikely to ever do so .

    But my question was to Dave who was introducing the red herring of US racial policy.

    Invasion of private property is never acceptable wouldn’t you say?
    And the publicity around this particular case has been negative for conservation and sustainability?


  21. Andrei says:

    Boy this shows how far from the planet reality Greens are

    Comparing gross human rights violations in Mississippi 50 years ago with the rights of an unsentient tree of indeterminate age whose existence they were unaware of until four days ago until some wacko with nothing better to do with his time climbed it


  22. robertguyton says:

    “Invasion of private property is never acceptable wouldn’t you say?”
    Never, farmerbraun?
    A burning house, screaming child, you walk on by because you respect the law of trespass?
    I don’t know, there may be legal provision (should be) for such situations, but I’m sure there are times when the law must be broken for the sake of someone’s life – you think?

    Andrei – why do you say the tree-climbing man was “wacko”? And what makes you think he had nothing better to do? I’m guessing he chose to climb, rather than found himself climbing out of boredom.


  23. farmerbraun says:

    Robert your example of the burning house has nothing to do with trespass.


  24. robertguyton says:



  25. robertguyton says:

    But “the invasion of private property” is what you cited.
    Is busting in through a door, uninvited, not “the invasion of private property”?


  26. robertguyton says:

    Here’s what I mean, fb – if I owned field and an elderly fisherman walked across the corner of my field to get to the river, never causing the slightest harm but without asking me, I’d be okay with that.


  27. farmerbraun says:

    Yep , that would not be trespass in law.
    If the person in the burning house tells you to F off , and you don’t , then that ‘s trespass.


  28. Denny says:

    This discussion has gone way off topic.

    I want to know why people think that the development of land and the conservation of trees can’t go hand in hand to create dense housing in and around existing native trees..

    I lived in Karori, Wellington in an area that a developer bought from the Catholic Church. It used to be a retreat and was almost completely bush clad. Now there are 66 town houses in and around the rimu, tawa and kauri that the builder carefully built around, realising that to keep the trees would enhance the living area. Yes, a lot of bush went and the existing neighbours weren’t happy about losing there back yards. The developer kept a strip of bush at the rear of the development as a bush walk for the residents. It wasn’t an easy site to build on. There is a stream running through it, it’s on a hill and the developer had to sort out all sorts of engineering and drainage problems.

    And the developer wasn’t an architect. He is a builder. Practical, pragmatic, problem solving. Actually he wasn’t the initial developer. He went bust because he couldn’t work out how to get the number of residences needed to make a profit and the places he built – designed by an architect – didn’t make the best use of space. You can clearly see where the second developer stepped in. There are beautiful native trees, a common lawn, and practical well built houses that all peak to a wide range of buyers. It’s become a cross section of our society.

    His name is Art Potter. Perhaps John and Jane could talk to him about managing a mix of conservation and density of housing, instead of talking about how it can’t be done, and wanting compensation.


  29. farmerbraun says:

    Denny you seem to have missed the point that these two people had done exactly as you suggest , and conserved a larger area of vegetation at the expense of TWO, just two trees.
    They had sited the houses , just two of them , so as to maximise the area that could be left undisturbed.
    It was a “holier-than -thou” minority for whom that was not good enough. But they went too far , and have done more harm than good, as we will likely see in the long run.

    Are you describing the former “Futuna”?


  30. robertguyton says:

    So…if the person is mentally deranged (telling you to “F off” and will die if you do), you are suggesting that you’d leave, because of the trespass laws.
    This is concerning, farmerbraun.
    What are you thinking?


  31. farmerbraun says:

    I didn’t say that at all , and you must know that.
    Why do you keep doing this?


  32. Dave Kennedy says:

    Farmerbraun, I realise the example about the blacks was extreme but it was necessary to show how the law isn’t always right and should be challenged at times. The point at when the law is considered wrong will differ to different people and I used an example that we would both agree on.

    In this case the tree would have been removed if it wasn’t for the action of the tree climber and the issue would not have got the attention it has. In terms of trespass there must be a variety of elements to this and it is clear that there was no threat to people or damage to property in this instance. I know of others who have done similar in an attempt to save historic buildings. As I said there is a continuum along which there is an issue of national importance that may over-ride individual property rights and obviously people will have different ideas around this as occurred here.

    Some would think that it would matter how old the Kauri was or how endangered the species is, property rights trump all.

    Some may think that for the tree to be of national interest that it would need to be at least 500 years old and 70-100 years just doesn’t cut it.

    Others at the furthest extreme on the other end may believe every kauri is sacred.

    Surely what we need to do is be aware that people do have different values and they are not necessarily wrong, just different. The most important thing is to have the tolerance and systems to manage things in a civil and respectful way.

    I am actually a little concerned that the owners of the land do not appear to have been contacted in the early stages by the protestors (they may have done but I don’t see any evidence of this), as they seem reasonable people and this level of activity may not have been necessary.

    I generally find most New Zealanders to be reasonable people and prefer things to be attempted at the lowest level first.


  33. robertguyton says:

    I’m asking, while it is trespass, would you do it (in order to save a life), farmerbraun?


  34. farmerbraun says:

    Robert if it was a deranged person , then it may not be trespass.
    Unlawful entry to save a life is not the same thing, by a long way.
    Back to the protestor; he was served with a trespass notice by the police; he defied it.
    Is everybody free to defy the law if they feel that they are acting for the greater good? Is that a defence? Even if they are wrong?

    Of course this fool may yet be charged when he descends.


  35. TraceyS says:

    He has been charged with trespass.


  36. robertguyton says:

    All those questions, farmerbraun, about the actions of the tree-climber – why are you asking me???
    I’m in Riverton, feet on the ground.


  37. farmerbraun says:

    I got the impression that you were right behind that sort of illegal activity.
    Was I wrong?


  38. robertguyton says:

    “right behind” – what do you mean? You think I put him up to it? I live in Riverton!!


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