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No permit required for removing indigenous trees

Thursday 1 April 2021 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Local, National

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No permit required for removing indigenous trees
The park in Avarua, adjacent to where a number of trees are slated to be removed. 20020219

There are no regulations in place to discourage government agencies and members of the public from removing trees.

The National Environment Service Act 2003 doesn’t require anyone to apply for permits when cutting/removing trees, says Service director Nga Puna.

However if the trees are within concerned areas such as wetland, foreshore, streams including up to five metre from the banks or up the slopes then “there’s a process” to be followed.

Earlier this week, Cook Islands Investment Corporation announced it will remove four trees from the Avarua Township median strip in the coming weeks “in the interests of safety”.

Formal consultation process was not required for the removal of these trees, a government spokesperson confirmed.

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Nga Puna says they are aware of the tree cutting process in Avarua, adding “safety” for the public, especially road users, is the reason behind this move.

“In these cases, we encourage replanting elsewhere to replace removed trees,” he said.

However a concerned Rarotonga resident, who is an advocate for indigenous plants, said trees planted on Avarua Township median strip has never been a problem “if you are driving properly and within the limits of the law”.

The trees required to be removed are – a kauariki (tropical almond) tree and three toa (ironwood) trees.

“There are hardly any big trees in there! What is this fear of big trees? Keep them groomed and you won’t have a problem – ahh, that’s right, government departments don’t want to do constant maintenance!” the concerned person said.

“What is that? Better to get rid of the tree altogether - no leaves to clean up, no roots to disturb the ground and trip up an unwary tourist”.


Trees to be cut and removed from Avarua median strip – Ara Maire Nui. CIIC/21033036

Opposition Environment spokesperson MP Selina Napa earlier said removal of trees was increasingly concerning.

Napa was disappointed about a lack of community consultation and urged the National Environment Service to get involved to avoid such activities.

A public notice was put out by the Environment Service yesterday advising that prior to any work or any activity carried out within any of these areas – wetlands, sloping land, foreshore and streams (Sections 50 & 58 Environment Act 2003) the general public including private and public contractors must contact the National Environment Service for further advice before commencing work.