Tree removal in council's four-part plan

CONSTRUCTION SITE: Michaels Ave Reserve is currently closed off to the public.
CONSTRUCTION SITE: Michaels Ave Reserve is currently closed off to the public.

Battle lines have been drawn over a leafy neighbourhood park in Ellerslie.

Michaels Ave Reserve is undergoing renovations based on a four-part council master plan developed in 2008.

But some residents say the changes are destroying their natural green space.

Council has started removing 50-year-old trees and is sand carpeting the lower fields.

Plans are in place to build a retaining wall, install floodlights, move the cricket nets and include more carparks so one more playing fields can be added.

Ellerslie resident Callum O'Brien overlooks the area and uses it daily to walk his dog.

Part of Auckland's charm is its green spaces, he says.

"I don't think it's a fair price to pay for just one more sports ground, cutting down all of those trees and taking away everything that was natural.

"If more of this starts happening Auckland is going to be just another big, grey city."

Resident Keith Hargis has lived by the reserve for more than 20 years. He worries the proposed floodlighting will bring more games and more noise.

"Loads and loads of people use it for so many different reasons. It's really now just been given to one group.

"To tell us there has been consultation when we haven't heard anything for six or seven years is ludicrous."

A group called Friends of Michaels Ave has been formed and member Tracey Bennett says there are about 150 residents on board.

The latest plans are vastly different to what was presented to residents in 2008, she says.

"I was deeply alarmed to hear about the intention to chop down so many mature trees.

"Like me, everyone I contacted was completely unaware of it. We don't feel like we have had the say we would have liked to."

The Orakei Local Board brought the tree felling to a halt on March 24 after the group raised concerns. The council has agreed to chop down 20 instead of 33 mature trees and plant 31 large trees in their place.

Local board chairwoman Desley Simpson says keeping everyone happy is a balancing act.

"Michaels Ave Reserve not only provides for the needs of formal sport but also informal recreation and a balance between the two needs to be maintained."

Ellerslie resident James Akers says removing the trees is not all bad.

"It's letting in a lot more light and it's not as much a deep, dark corner now. There's still plenty of trees here."

Ellerslie Football Club president Mark Weipers says a lot of work has gone into making the plan acceptable to everyone.

The lower fields will be used for training which will minimise the impact of floodlighting, he says.

"What we're trying to do as a whole community is to improve the grounds and preserve the uniqueness of Michaels Ave Reserve."

An Auckland Council spokeswoman says residents received a copy of the master plan in July 2012 and were invited to sign up to a mailing list to stay informed.

"Residents will still be able to use the lower fields in the same way as they have done previously, once the earthworks and drainage are completed."

Go to ofmichaelsavereserve.

East And Bays Courier