Auckland City Hiding on Trees Issue

After intense pressure from media, Save Auckland’s Trees campaigners, and the public, Auckland City Council recently made a wise choice to review earlier plans to destroy 20 treasure Queen St trees.

After reading the agenda for the extraordinary Council meeting on 17 Jan, it seems that the Council will be holding the best part of the meeting behind closed doors under the dubious veil of "LGOIMA".

Anyone who has ever followed, or watched Council meetings in action will know that Councils enjoy the fact that they can hide behind the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act whenever they want. A reason always has to be given under section 6 and/or 7 of the Act, but those reasons are so broad they cover many many issues which don’t warrant the protection of confidentiality.

The ability to exclude the public from Council meetings is abused by many Councils and Auckland City’s meeting on 17 January is a prime example. The meeting agenda lists the topic of discussion as "Queen St Upgrade – Review of Tree Plan" which, in my mind, should be considering separately from any legal challenge to the Council’s resource consent. Any consent held by the Council may go hand in hand with with the plans for Queen Street, but the two are not the same.

If the Council wishes to take advice on any legal challenge to the resource consent granted for the removal of the trees, then it should do so under a separate item on the agenda. Considering the issues as two separate items would still allow the public to watch the Council debate the tree removal.

However, by combining the two issues together as they’ve done, the Council can use the excuse of maintaining legal privilege to hide behind closed doors. This is a cowardly thing to do, and in no way open or transparent.

The fate of Queen St’s trees is one of very wide public interest. Auckland City Council has no right to be closing any doors whatsoever.

 


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