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Removal of Western Springs pines halted as police probe 'vandalism'

Work to clear 13 pines from an urban Auckland forest has been put on hold while the police investigate suspected vandalism.

The council had stepped in under urgency to remove the trees below West View Road in Grey Lynn because of safety concerns.

Protesters had set up on a nearby property, concerned that the resource consent process had not been properly followed and that the felling will destroy the surrounding native forest.

Work had been due to start this morning but the council said contractors arrived to find barbed wire and twine had been put in place overnight.

Protestors said they saw the wire yesterday afternoon but assumed it had been put there by the contractors to prevent access.

The pines are among a stand of around 200 trees that the council has applied to remove through the resource consent process.

The pines at Western Springs that are due to be cut down
The pines at Western Springs that are due to be cut down Source: rnz.co.nz

Staff had delayed the work for 24 hours from Monday until today while they contacted people living in Western Springs Lakeside Park.

Residents complained because they say the council was trying to bypass due process using emergency powers.

In a statement, residents said they would gather at Westview Road in protest from 6.30am.

"Residents will refuse to evacuate their homes, while other supporters may enter the forest to obstruct the felling," it said.

The council's head of operational management, Simon Randall, said the authority was not trying to force people from their homes.

Mr Randall said residents had been advised in writing they would need to briefly leave their properties in stages while the trees were removed.

This, he said, was to comply with health and safety laws.

"We are not seeking to force residents from their homes, rather we are working with them in the hopes that they cooperate with us in facilitating these important emergency works," Mr Randall said

"We have spoken to the residents affected and left detailed letters with those who we were unable to speak to directly," he said.

"Those residents were advised that they will need to briefly vacate their properties at some point during this period for their own safety.

"Vacating properties will only be required while some of the thirteen affected trees are being felled so the times that residents will need to leave their properties will vary. The timing is also flexible enabling the works to take place during times that are suitable for the affected residents.

"In any case, the council's arboriculture contractor will door knock the affected properties to ensure that they are empty while the works take place. The works will not continue while the properties are occupied."

rnz.co.nz

One of the 13 Western Springs pines targeted for removal.
One of the 13 Western Springs pines targeted for removal. Source: rnz.co.nz