Shortly after I was first elected I got a call from Annette Isbey about a track near her house that took her through native bush and pines down to Western Springs. She wanted help to fix the track because her daily walk was getting more and more difficult.
A talented artist and the widow of Labour MP Eddie Isbey, Annette had previously fought off mountain-bikers who wanted tracks through “her” park, and Auckland Zoo, which was eyeing the area in 2010 for walking a proposed herd of elephants.
Those ideas led the Board to adopt the Western Springs Native Bush Regeneration Project in 2015. It was consulted on as local board priority through the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan. The project’s objectives are to enhance an area of regenerating native bush through an ecological restoration programme, new planting and track maintenance. There is also the chance to expand the track network through the area bordered by West View Road, Auckland Zoo, Western Springs Lakeside Park and Stadium.
Annette would have loved the exotic trees to remain, but the Board has had expert advice that the project can’t be progressed until two hundred 90-year-old Monterey pines in the area are removed because they are unstable and a public safety risk.
A 2013 survey confirmed 224 of the original 506 trees had died or fallen, leaving 282. A 2016 survey showed the live population was down to about 200, after about 60 fell or snapped, and another 20 unstable trees were felled.
A count is now being undertaken to confirm live numbers, but many of the tress are in poor health, with sparse crowns and dead or dying limbs, so that action is critical for safety reasons. Removing only the unhealthy trees would dramatically increase the failure rate of any left behind. Complete removal will enable us to keep the area safe and to start an ecological restoration programme immediately.
There has been concern about white faced herons nesting in the trees. While they are potentially suitable for roosting, a recent survey found no herons, suggesting the area was not an important site for them. Regardless, any felling would be done outside the nesting season, and the area would be surveyed by an ecologist. Approximately 20 totem poles will be left throughout the forest as a potential habitat for kingfisher and morepork.
The complexity of the project and the need to ensure the right method is used has caused delays in getting started, but a publicly notified resource consent application is now being processed. The regeneration plans, and track proposals will be developed with input from the local community.
Annette is now 90 and in a resthome. I hope her grandchildren will get to enjoy an improved path through a stunning regenerating forest, in an area so dear to her.
This update first appeared in the Ponsonby News April 2018
Native Forest for Western Springs. Our Auckland 6 April 2018
Frequently Asked Questions on the project