Auckland Council Compliance Officers are investigating after Walkways on Waiheke founder Ross Gillespie drew attention to what he believes is council neglect and illegal public encroachment onto Tin Boat Reserve in Onetangi.
Within the reserve, a number of trees and shrubs – some of which appear to be natives – have been fully or partially felled, and both metal rubbish and wooden logs have been left.
Towards the boundary, which adjoins private property, grass has been mowed and bushes tended to.
After Mr Gillespie contacted Gulf News on the issue, regulatory compliance manager Steve Pearce has confirmed staff will assess whether any illegal activity has taken place on council land.
“We were not aware of any native trees being felled at Tin Boat Reserve. The council’s compliance investigators are now following up on this and we would encourage people who observe potential illegal tree works to contact us on 09 301 0101.”
He says, however, they are currently in the process of trying to address the discarded rubbish.
“The council is aware of items being dumped on the reserve. A neighbour has already removed a structure off the reserve following enforcement action. We will discuss the further removal of the scrapped car and poles accordingly and consider if enforcement action is appropriate.”
With the reserve surrounded on all sides by privately owned property, and only a small path off Pah Road allowing access, Mr Gillespie alleges the trees were cut down by locals to retain sea views and extend land at the back of their properties.
“This is what happens when bureaucracies toy around with public spaces. This is a totally neglected reserve. It’s got elevation, so it’s a great asset to Waiheke, and it gives dimensionality and perspective to Onetangi.”
One local resident, whose house backs onto the reserve, says they noticed trees and bush being removed in the last few months, and that they have never seen council representatives in the reserve.
A neighbouring couple have confirmed they hired contractors to remove asthma-triggering privet trees on parts of the reserve adjacent to their home, but only after obtaining council permission to do so. They say they did not fell native trees.
Mr Gillespie has trail-blazed a path through the area, placing signs and white rags to signal the route, but claims his markings have been regularly removed.
Mr Pearce did not provide a timescale for the investigation. • Richard Jones