Eighty-year-old Albert Kinnell is fighting Council’s demand that he fell trees on his property, including an orchard planted by his mother, at his expense.
The proposed removal of numerous trees from a rural property in Silverdale has turned into a battle between North Shore Aero Club, Auckland Council and the owner of the trees, elderly resident Albert Kinnell.
Mr Kinnell’s property, a former dairy farm that has been in the family since 1905, includes a pine plantation that his grandfather planted in the 1930s and an orchard planted by his mother in the 1950s and 60s.
The land is beneath the Aero Club’s take-off and landing paths and in 2016 Mr Kinnell was advised by Council that five of his trees infringed the height restrictions that apply in that space (known as a runway fan).
Mr Kinnell and his daughter, Heather, say that following this, Council staff came to look at the trees, and are now seeking removal of all the pines and the orchard. Most of the fruit trees are around 2m tall and set in a dip well below the road. However, on paper the contour of the land places them within the runway fan.
“Recently we had a meeting with Council and were told in no uncertain terms that we had to remove it all,” Ms Kinnell says. “So five trees became what could be 150 trees. We walked into the meeting and immediately got the impression that a decision was already made and we may as well have been talking to one of our trees.”
Council estimates that the process of felling all the trees, which may include shutting part of the road, is around $70,000. The Kinnells were told that under the Resource Management Act, this cost falls on the landowner and that while Council encouraged the Aero Club to contribute to the cost, it cannot, by law, require this.
The situation has been extremely upsetting and stressful for Mr Kinnell and the family is taking legal advice.
Mr Kinnell says he understands the need for the pines to be trimmed or removed; some of them breach the fan by as much as 20 metres. But he doesn’t see why he should pay, when all the benefits go to the airfield, or lose his orchard.
The family also considers that the regulations are unrealistic, given that parts of East Coast Bays Rd, and power poles along it, also exceed the runway fan.
Council regulatory compliance manager, Steve Pearce, says Council was made aware of the Kinnell’s trees by the Aero Club. “We understand the issue was discussed between the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the club for several years,” Mr Pearce says. “The club is asking Council to enforce the rules of the Auckland Unitary Plan as these pine trees have grown to a height where they are in breach of the plan,” Mr Pearce says. “We are not taking any formal enforcement action at this stage, but we have been working with the landowner since 2016 to try and find a remedy, including seeking assistance from the club in terms of costs.”
A CAA spokesperson says the issue came to light as part of a routine survey and it is now the responsibility of the Aero Club “to take all reasonable and practical steps to mitigate such risks as the situation may dictate”.
North Shore Aero Club general manager John Punshon says the club does not wish to comment.
Feedback sought on area plan
The draft Silverdale West/Dairy Flat Industrial Area Structure Plan is open for public feedback until April 28. It details how the environment can be protected as commercial development is introduced. It also covers transport needs, including cycleways, walkways and motorway connections. Info and feedback: aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/haveyoursay or visit one of two drop-in sessions at Dairy Flat Hall, 6 Postman Road, Dairy Flat, on Saturday, April 6, 10am-12 noon, or Wednesday April 10, 5.30pm-7.30pm. Planners will be available to answer questions. Feedback will be analysed, and the draft plan amended where necessary, prior to Council’s adoption of a final plan later in the year.