MIL OSI – Source: Greenpeace New Zealand – People power the winner on the day – Greenpeace
For several days the nation has been transfixed on the epic David and Goliath story of one community’s revolt over consent given to chop down a native kauri and rimu tree thought to be hundreds of years old.
The consent – ticked off by the council for the land owners, a couple of architects who wanted to build a home there – had not been publicly notified.
But when it all eventually came out, people living both nearby the site in Auckland’s western suburb of Titirangi and far further afield, decided to go out on a limb.
Enter Michael Tavares, a well-spoken Waiheke Island local, who upon hearing about the trees’ impending doom jumped on the first ferry over and promptly scaled the kauri, refusing to come down until he felt it was safe.
For almost a week he stayed up there – trespass order and all – supported by a large and growing group of people on the ground who simply would not accept the notion that these majestic residents of the forest could be so carelessly cut from our history.
A petition was launched on the Greenpeace-hosted online petition platform TOKO, which soared to a record 26,500 signatures in just a few days. The document was later presented to the council by a crowd that had gathered outside Auckland’s Town Hall.
Mud was slung: The council blamed the government for what it did to the Resource Management Act (RMA) in 2013, relaxing it – some would go as far as to say “gutting” it – so much that chopping down trees estimated as being close to 500 years in age appears to be even easier than ever.
On other side of the smoking gun, members of the government voiced surprise at the council’s decision to not notify the public of its plan to allow the trees to be destroyed.
And then the architect-owners of the site relented. It was their 20th wedding anniversary they said, and they wanted to enjoy it in peace.
They’d had threats made against them, been thrown into the media spotlight – and dammit, they had a whole bunch of angry Kiwis with placards protesting on their land.
They would not be cutting down either the kauri or the rimu tree, but – among other conditions – expected to be compensated for their troubles.
In the end, although worrying flaws in the current RMA have now been exposed to the New Zealand public, the myriad of moral wrongs that were legitimised through clever paperwork aren’t anything particularly surprising.
But what is extraordinary was the way in which normal New Zealanders dropped everything and joined the fight to keep the roots of our history alive.
Without even blinking, they blocked out all their normal noise and daily routines and came together to form a united front that took on higher powers. And they won.
It’s yet another example of just how powerful the ordinary can be when it comes to doing the extraordinary.
Keep it up and we can really start to change some things around here.