Contractors working on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway have sought to allay concerns over their felling and future use of two substantial kauri trees on the bank of the Mahurangi River.
The kauri, together with a large totara, were cut down last month on land at the end of Carran Road, close to where it joins Woodcocks Road.
Farmer Lawrie Nunn, who has managed the land for 45 years, estimates the trees to have been between 200 and 300 years old, and says they were originally left standing when a 200-metre corridor of trees along the riverbank was first cleared.
“I was told they were inside the designated area, but away from the line for construction of the motorway. They said ‘you don’t have to worry about those’,” he says. “And they left those three for a day, but then I had to go away and when I came back a day or two later, they were down.”
He also voiced concerns that the resulting kauri logs, which measure about a metre in diameter and at least six metres long, had not been separated from other timber and were just mixed in with all sorts of other logs.
“My understanding was that you’re not allowed to just sell kauri as you would any old timber. I thought it should be offered to local Maori.”
The logging and milling of any indigenous timber requires Ministry for Primary Industries approval under the 1993 Forests Act.
Contractor NX2 said the necessary approvals to remove the trees were granted to the NZ Transport Agency as part of the Board of Inquiry consent.
Chief executive Ray Wilson said NX2 understood the cultural and ecological value of kauri and native forests, and was working hard to minimise the impacts on native trees between Puhoi and Warkworth.
“We are working closely with tree specialists and ecologists to retain as many native trees as possible,” he said. “There is a significant planting programme of natural vegetation to replace indigenous vegetation removed for the project.”
He added that the preferred alignment for the motorway had reduced the impact on kauri forest by about one-third, compared with the earlier indicative alignment.
Mr Wilson said the two kauri at Carran Road were on the motorway alignment and a bridge would be built where they had stood.
With regard to the disposal of the felled kauri, Mr Wilson said that although NX2 had been working with the Hōkai Nuku mana whenua alliance to identify specific native trees that could be used for cultural harvest, the two kauri in question were not part of that process.
However, he insisted they would be kept separate.
“After further investigations, we have determined that the kauri logs will be stored separately until further consideration of any opportunities for their re-use are made, in recognition of their importance,” he said.