Update to the Register of Notable Trees

Independent Hearing Commissioner’s decision and Council’s Resolution on Council-initiated Plan Change.

Notification of decision on Council-initiated Plan Change (Plan Change 10 Notable Trees) to the Wairarapa Combined District Plan under Clause 11 of the First Schedule, Resource Management Act 1991.

The Register of Notable Trees is Appendix 1.4 of the District Plan. The Register includes records of the trees within the district that are deemed worthy of protection. The Register provides certainty to landowners, and all other district plan users about what (if any) trees are protected on a given site. The purpose of Plan Change 10 was to ensure that the Register is up to date and relevant for the district. 

A hearing was held on 21 November 2019 and recommendations from the Independent Hearing Commissioner were received on 31 January 2020 which recommended that the Council adopt the Plan Change. The Commissioner’s recommendations included decisions around specific trees and that the Standard Tree Evaluation Method (STEM) threshold be lowered. The Commissioner’s recommendations were presented to South Wairarapa District Council on 5 February 2020. Council adopted the Commissioner’s recommendations.

The Plan Change has been notified to the submitters and the appeal process has been completed. 

The recommendations of the Hearing Commissioner and Council Resolution that ratified the Plan Change are available to be viewed at:

  • South Wairarapa District Council offices, 19 Kitchener Street, Martinborough
  • Greytown, Martinborough and Featherston Public Libraries
  • Documents provided below

Commissioner’s Recommendation and Council Decision

Council Resolution

Please phone the Planning Department at South Wairarapa District Council on 06 306 9611 extension 870 if you have any questions about the Plan Change.

Harry Wilson
CHIEF EXECUTIVE
For and on behalf of the
SOUTH WAIRARAPA DISTRICT COUNCIL

What is the Register of Notable Trees?

The Register of Notable Trees is Appendix 1.4 of the District Plan, a founding document of the district that manages the activities of people in a way that benefits the land, wider environment, and the community.

The Register includes records of the trees within the district that are deemed worthy of protection. Each tree registration record includes a unique reference number and details of the tree, such as species, postal address and a map reference.

The Register provides certainty to landowners, and all other district plan users about what (if any) trees are protected on a given site.

What is the proposed change?

The purpose of this Plan Change (#10) is to ensure that the Register is up to date and relevant for the district. Updates will account for trees that no longer exist, as well as new expert thinking about what makes a tree notable. 

The overall approach to tree protection within the District Plan is not proposed to change. The objectives and policies related to Notable Trees also remain unchanged.

Two key documents we are consulting on

Document one of two:  Register of notable trees in the South Wairarapa

Document two of of two:  Planning maps of notable trees in the South Wairarapa

 (not formally part of Plan change 10)

Search for your property here:  Updated Searchable Database[XLS, 6MG]

This is a user friendly, searchable database that has additional information about the trees on properties in the South Wairarapa District. This includes the GPS references for most trees. This is not part of the District Plan itself, or the plan change. Other information that will assist in planning decision making will be added to this database over time to assist Council staff as well as ratepayers. This will continue to be freely available for ratepayers on swdc.govt.nz or a digital copy can be requested via email from one of the Planning staff members.

Have your Say – call for further submissions

Council are now calling for further submissions.  If you would like to make a further submission on the plan change to update the notable tree register, the submission period has now opened for further submissions.

Council has received 38 submissions in the first stage. As per the RMA process, we would like to let you know Council has made a summary of those submissions. This is available for you to read online below and a hard copy is available in each of the local libraries.

Whether you are a new submitter, or have previously written a submission, for Council to accept the further submission the content must only be about matters raised in the original submissions.

Public Notice
Submission form
Summary of submissions
Full submissions

Further submissions can be made by sending an electronic submission to planning@swdc.govt.nz, by posting to PO Box 6, Martinborough, or depositing it with one of the Council staff at Martinborough Council Office or with one of the Library staff by 4:30pm on Wednesday 3 July 2019.

Hearing date and Commissioner appointed

The hearing will be convened at the Greytown Library on Thursday 21st November 2019 8.30am.  The Commissioner’s three Directions are contained in the following documents:

Direction 1
Direction 2
Direction 3

Commissioner appointed is Richard Knott. The Planner’s recommendation report is attached here
Attachment for Section 42A report here 

Electronic links

1. PC10 – Original submissions and Further Submissions
2. PC10 – Section 32 Evaluation
3. PC10 – Key Planning and Arborist advice documents
4. STEM™ assessments (incl. Further Assessments)
PC10 – Addendum 1 Access database and Archives documents
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9dmhubtatz5p4hc/AAB9MXhuJyi9uIxxveUrEWoza?dl=0https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9dmhubtatz5p4hc/AAB9MXhuJyi9uIxxveUrEWoza?dl=0 

Expert Evidence #1 Sarah Ongley
Expert Evidence #2 Lucy Cooper
Expert Evidence #3 Jeremy (Jez) Partridge

Notable trees historical background

When was the first Register of Notable Trees created in South Wairarapa?

The modern day area known as South Wairarapa up until October 1989 comprised four smaller councils; Martinborough, Greytown and Featherston Borough Councils and Featherston County Council. Each of these had a District Scheme since c. 1953. Despite each of the above District Schemes having the ability to protect trees, it appears the first time this was exercised officially under a district scheme was some 35 years later by the Greytown Borough Council. It’s not surprising given Greytown was New Zealand’s first town to celebrate Arbor Day in 1890; the world’s first was celebrated by a small Spanish village by the name of Mondoñedo in 1594. The register of Noteworthy Trees had 63 registrations and started a planning tradition that is now 28 years old.

Did anything come before that?

In ancient times, tangata whenua observed, recorded and shared information about trees for hundreds of years. The forerunner to a formal, recognised tree evaluation process in the Wairarapa was information kept in lists by the Greytown Beautifying Society and their well-recognised member Mrs. Stella Bull during the 19th and 20th centuries. This was the basis for a NZ Forest Service report about historic and notable trees compiled by Mr. Stanley Burstell in 1974. It recorded information about 62 tree’s or groups of trees around Greytown and Featherston categorised as following; 7 national interest; 30 local interest and 25 un categorised.

What came next? The first recognised tree evaluation process

The first recognised tree evaluation process was the TEM (Tree Evaluation Method, 1988) developed by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH). This was used as the basis of a proposed Plan Change to the Greytown Borough District Scheme. Compiled by Council Officers, with expert input from Mr. Ron Flook, the proposal was approved, and the first tree register using the Tree Evaluation Method was established in 1990 comprising 63 registrations. Copies of the original TEM hand-written registration forms for each registration are on file at Council. The ‘noteworthy’ trees were categorised as following; 20 Class 1; 37 Class 2 and 4 of special community interest ‘class 3’.

A district scheme and two district plans later, this 1988 list and methodology mostly remained the same for the next 30 years.

The original register was added to in the first South Wairarapa District Plan draft (1994) since the inception of the RMA in 1991.The register grew by 8 registrations to a new total of 71; 21 Class 1; 36 Class 2 and 12 Class 3. It appears they were not assessed under the STEM (1996) methodology despite being available prior to the Plan becoming operative in 1998, 8 years after the first tree register.

District plans must be reviewed every 10 years. Eight years later (2006) the three district Plans of each of the three Wairarapa Council’s came together as the Combined Wairarapa District Plan (CWDP). Appendix 1.4 was created in the CWDP, with a register of notable trees for each of the three Councils; Tm = Masterton District Council; Tc = Carterton District Council and Ts = South Wairarapa District Council.

There is no mention of a tree evaluation methodology referenced, nor any common evaluation methodology used across the three district lists. For South Wairarapa particularly 26 trees were added; 7 trees were deleted and some other minor amendments at time of becoming operative in 2011.

Notable trees frequently asked questions

What is the proposed change?

The proposed change is to update the Register of Notable Trees. Updates will account for trees that no longer exist, as well as new expert thinking about what makes a tree notable. See STEMTM methodology.

This means that trees that have died or have been removed are proposed to be no longer included. Additional tree’s that have been suggested as being worthy of inclusion in the register have been professionally assessed.

The method for building a Notable Tree register has also been updated to reflect industry best practice. Moreover, a Council spreadsheet has been created to act as a public/ Council database freely available to all district plan users, property owners and other decisions makers. This includes GPS coordinates for each registration.

The overall approach to tree protection within the District Plan is not proposed to change. The objectives and policies related to Notable Trees also remain unchanged.

Why are the changes being proposed?

The purpose of this Plan Change (#10) is to ensure that the Register is up to date and relevant for the district. Updates will account for trees that no longer exist, as well as new expert thinking about what makes a tree notable. 

Why do trees need to be protected?

Trees are recognised for their cultural, environmental and aesthetic benefits. In ancient times, tangata whenua observed, recorded and shared information about trees for hundreds of years. The forerunner to a formal, recognised tree evaluation process in the Wairarapa was information kept in lists by the Greytown Beautifying Society and their well-recognised member Mrs. Stella Bull during the 19th and 20th centuries. This was the basis for a NZ Forest Service report about historic and notable trees compiled by Mr. Stanley Burstell in 1974. It recorded information about 62 tree’s or groups of trees around Greytown and Featherston categorised as following; 7 national interest; 30 local interest and 25 uncategorised.

Trees are particularly important to Greytown, as it was the first New Zealand town to celebrate Arbor Day in 1890. The register of Noteworthy Trees had 63 registrations and started a planning tradition that is now 28 years old.

How have trees been assessed and what makes them notable?

The STEMTM Methodology has been applied to assessing trees in the updated Register. More information available here: https://www.notabletrees.org.nz/stem

In past district plans, ‘noteworthy’ trees have been categorised as Class 1; Class 2 and of special community interest ‘Class 3’; however, there has been no mention of a tree evaluation methodology used, nor any common evaluation methodology used across the three Wairarapa councils.

How will I be informed if I have a notable tree on my property?

You will have a received a letter to your property address. The letters were mailed out on Thursday 28 February. If you believe you should have received a letter and haven’t, please call Lou Brown, Planning Office, on 06 306 9611, ext. 842.

The Updated Notable Trees Register[XLS, 6MG], which is being consulted on, is also available online for all to see.

How can I access the Register of Notable Trees? Now and after the change?

The Updated Register of Notable Trees [XLS, 6MG] is available on our website. It will remain here throughout and after consultation. Any changes to the Register as a result of consultation will be reflected in the Register.

What information about the tree is held in the register?

The format of the notable tree register has a X and Y axis. This X axis records the following:

  • tree species (by common and botanical name);
  • location by address/ legal description;
  • corresponding map reference

The Y axis records:

  • the unique reference number of each tree or group of trees; for example Ts001 (“T” = tree, “s” = South Wairarapa). N.B the numbering does not represent a hierarchy of importance, it is only for reference purposes.

Each registration is located on the Council A3 planning maps (to be available soon). Look for a very small silhouette of a tree (4mmx2mm) and the corresponding tree reference # to refer back to the registration (this is on the bottom right hand side of each symbol).

Does the Register include tree on private land?

The notable tree list includes trees on both public (e.g. within roading corridors, parks etc) and privately owned land.

What impact will the change have on private landowners?

Anything other than minor trimming will require a resource a consent.

What work can be done to a notable tree without a resource consent?

Minor trimming etc. Anything else, triggers a resource a consent.

What work to a notable tree requires a resource consent?

Anything other than minor trimming requires a resource a consent.

What can I do if I don’t agree with the proposed changes to the Register?

You can make a submission to Council. The closing date for submissions is 18 April 2019.

Can I make a submission about a tree on private land if I’m not the property owner?

Yes. You do not need to be the property owner to make a submission about a tree on private land.

Can I make a submission to get a tree added that isn’t in the register?

Yes. You can do this by making a submission.

What will it mean for trees on public land?

In cases where a tree or group of trees is on public land, consent from the administering authority (DOC, Council, NZTA etc) is required including minor trimming to work on the trees in any way.

Do all districts use the same criteria?

The STEMTM methodology is used by more than 35 councils in New Zealand. More information is available here: https://www.notabletrees.org.nz/stem

What is tree protection under the South Wairarapa District Plan? 

Specifications for district plans exist in the Resource Management Act including section 76; ‘a rule may prohibit or restrict the felling, trimming, damaging or removal of a tree’. This doesn’t mean a blanket protection over all trees, native or otherwise; in the South Wairarapa we are referring to special trees, known as notable trees that have been listed in the District Plan.

The district plan for South Wairarapa basically says for the large majority of situations when more than ‘minor trimming’ to the trunk, limbs and branches and damage below ground to the tree within its drip line is likely (rule # 21.1.1), a resource consent is triggered. A site-specific, tree-specific assessment would then need to be undertaken by Council to grant (of deny) the legal right to work on the tree and/ or remove it.

Contact at Council

Planning Office, 06 306 9611, ext. 870; email: planning@swdc.govt.nz

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