Reinforcements gather for development battle

17:00, May 20 2014

Opposition to a plan to build houses in front of protected native bush is growing.

The Tree Council joined Flat Bush residents at a resource consent hearing last week to rally against a proposed development on 2.1 hectares of private land.

Eqbal Khan represented 56 people who live in streets surrounding the Jeffs Rd trees.

"We totally disagree that the consent is in the greater interest of the locality and believe that it is simply a profit-making exercise by the owners," he says.

"It should be declined."

Land owner Armadale Holdings and the residents disagree about whether the property is protected.

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One totara tree will be felled and four houses built in the section's northwest corner if the application is granted.

Lawyer Jeremy Brabant says his client will compensate by planting an extra 1000 square metres of natives and implementing a more detailed bush management plan.

"It is not the case that the bush feature as a whole is under threat," he says.

Tree Council spokeswoman Sherylle Scott says the applicant should be fined for removing six golden elms and trimming lower limbs of the protected native bush without consent.

But Brabant says his client didn't undertake the work on purpose.

"It was not an outcome that was sought, and was not reflective of the instructions given to the contractor."

Council officer Robert Chieng says the usual enforcement procedures for chopping down elm trees and trimming native bush will follow if the application is declined.

Brabant says residents like the property as it used to be before it was cleared - full of exotic species, rank grass and woolly nightshade.

Objectively the bush would be better looked after if the consent is granted, he says.

The trees would remain visible across Flat Bush and although part of it would be obscured from Jeffs Rd, the 20 metre-high canopy "will definitely be visible".

Council officer Michael Luong is standing by his recommendation to refuse the application.

The commissioners will make their decision on the consent by June 9.

Eastern Courier