The popular Western Springs track had to be closed in April 2018 after a number of tree failures. Auckland Council have been monitoring the pines since 2005, documenting the degeneration of the stand which originally comprised around 700 trees.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the Council had an obligation to close the track as there was a high risk of trees toppling or snapping and falling onto the path. The project and decision to remove the pine trees ignited passions on both sides of the debate and was often reported by the media. However, Chief Executive Jim Stabback is confident the decision made to reopen the track by removing the unsafe pines was needed and one that has successfully safeguarded the area for present and future generations to enjoy.
After the removal – a quick recovery
As part of the removal process, the majority of pine limbs and trunks were chipped, with the resulting mulch being used in the restorative planting programme. The majority of the larger logs has been left in situ to create a beneficial habitat for lizards, birds and invertebrates. Auckland Council staff completed a geospatial assessment of the site after the removal work was completed, which revealed a low level of disturbance rate of approximately 16.3%, meaning impact on the site’s ecosystem was low.
The damage was less than most people envisioned. Similar projects can reach a disturbance rate of 50% which means the ecosystem would take a lot longer to recover after completion. This was achieved through careful planning by Treescape in conjunction with council representatives and monitoring arborists. The low rate demonstrates the great level of the care that was taken, helping the ecosystem to recover quickly.
I just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you and the team for the great job with the ever-changing goal posts on the Western Springs Track. The compromise to work from 9am-4pm opening the track daily and on weekends was a fantastic solution which got great feedback from the local board and the quite vocal community. As you know this has been a very contentious project for a number of years and the compromise you came up with really helped demonstrate that we do listen to the community, and you helped show that there is some flexibility to the way we do things.
Area Manager: Martin Wong, 11th October 2021
Native trees planting programme
Following the removal of the pines, a programme was introduced to plant 7800 native trees. Planting at the site got underway in early July 2021, with the help of rangatahi from the nearby Pasadena Intermediate / Te Kura Takawaenga o Te Waitītiko, who planted the first 140 trees and shrubs.
21 students aged between 11 and 13, part of the school’s sustainability group ‘Tūtei Ao’ as well as keen volunteers from one of the Rumaki classes, took part. They worked alongside three ecologists from Wildlands, Project Manager Karl McLeod, and teacher Heather Ruru to plant species including mahoe, karamu, kanuka and cabbage tree. This was followed by a community planting day on Sunday 18 July, which was attended by more than 60 members of the community.
The new native forest includes plants and trees like pūriri, taraire and tānekaha and will provide native habitat for a range of wildlife including tui, grey warbler, and silvereye.
More project feedback:
The project has been a very challenging and all those involved have done a marvellous job in managing the circumstances and keeping it on course. In the future, I know the team will be proud of the native forest that will have regenerated the area.
A shout out to all who worked diligently on this high profile and emotionally charged project. What a milestone to have seen the last tree come down this week. A big thanks to all those who have had a part in this achievement. The words ‘well done’ don’t quite express the extent of our admiration and appreciation, considering the enormity of this project.
General Manager: Taryn Crewe, 28th May 2021 & 25th June 2021
Quotes supplied by Christopher (Kirihi) Noventius | Senior Project Coordinator, Customer & Community Services Directorate | Auckland Council