Locals in South Auckland are concerned one of the last bastions of native bush will be destroyed following approval for a new highway to be built in the region.
The area which has been described as a slice of primitive Aotearoa is situated on Mill Road in Manukau on a family property.
Contract Climber and Arborist Johno Smith says, “This is actually a unique forest. In South Auckland obviously we don’t really have that much, it’s been clear felled and housing built everywhere, it’s really impressive. There’s old puriri out the back there, they look like they're pre-European even pre-Maori I believe.”
Auckland Transport says a 17m high bridge will be built over the strip of the bush at 146 Mill Road. The move to create the Redoubt-Mill Road corridor comes as housing growth is set to add more pressure to the existing infrastructure, which already faces congestion at times.
Chairman of The Redoubt Ridge Environmental Action Group David Price says “The option we pushed was that the existing road bed be used and I have an understanding, talking to various engineers, is that would be the normal option”
Auckland Transport says alternatives would cost an extra $45 million dollars and will require at least three more houses to be removed.
However, it is proposed that around 1500m2 of the native bush at the Cheesmans family property will be lost, but Auckland Transport also says a replanting plan of a similar size will mitigate the impact of the bush.
Retired United Nations ecologist Dr Robin Harger says he isn’t convinced.
“When we talk about the nature of this forest, we have to use words like unique and priceless, because there is simply not any more left,” says Dr Harger.
Meanwhile, the Redoubt Ridge Environmental Action Group wants to continue to raise more awareness for alternative options in the hope to save the native bush on the Cheesman family's property.
It's hoped the native bush will be officially named Cheesman Memorial Bush, a memorial to Graham Cheesman who died suddenly in October 2015. At the time, Cheesman was also advocating to save the bush on his property.
Auckland Transport will announce their decision by May. All affected landowners and submitters will then have 15 working days to appeal to the Environment Court.