Kauri protester wants permanent solution

News 26/04/2019

A man who spent days up a condemned kauri in west Auckland really doesn't want to have to do it again.

Awhi Awhi, a 400-year-old tree in Titirangi that's survived a ringbarking attempt and has been oddly resistant to dieback, has been given yet another stay of execution.

The owners of the land it sits on want to cut it down so they can build. The High Court however on Thursday overruled the Environment Court and extended Awhi Awhi's temporary protection.

"Everyone was really happy to hear the news the story isn't over for this tree, and we might be closer to reaching some permanent protection," said Michael Tavares, who spent four nights in the tree in 2015 to stop it being felled.

He says it's since become a symbol for all kauri, as the deadly dieback disease spreads throughout the region.

"This particular tree, with its particular resilience - it's in a kauri dieback-infested area, but is itself asymptomatic, and also it's survived a ringbarking attempt"

so the fact that it's still healthy means that it may be invaluable in protecting all of these trees

Ringbarking involves stripping away the top layer of bark right around a tree's circumference, and is usually fatal. Awhi Awhi was ringbarked in late 2015 by security guards, which activists called a "vengeful action by the developer".

"The predictions were that it wouldn't survive that summer, and it's survived two summers since then - so the prognosis is good," said Tavares.

Many other kauri in west Auckland have protection, but Tavares says it's important to save Awhi Awhi because of its resistance to dieback.

Asked on The AM Show if he was up for another climb, Tavares - who was convicted of trespass for his efforts in 2015 - was reluctant.

"Occupation is a temporary measure. We really want something permanent. Do we want to sit up there forever? I think the tree could do with a break from that sort of thing."

The next court battle is expected to cost his group, Save Our Kauri, about $20,000. A Givealittle page has been launched to raise money - as of Friday morning, $2120 had been donated.

If we can't protect this one, how can we expect to protect the entire species?

The AM Show / Newshub reporters Dan Satherley & Miriam Harris