|The first tree|
The Papatotoetoe Borough Council introduced a District Plan which showed that a kauri tree was to be cut down to allow a service lane to pass along the back of 238 Great South Road. I objected. The Council laughed and dismissed the objection without even giving it consideration. I took the matter to the Environment Court. The laughter stopped. No one had ever taken them to court before.
Two cases were set down to be heard that afternoon. One was the Peter Beavan proposal for a large development adjacent to Pompallier House in Russell. It was a matter of considerable public interest and the court was buzzing with television cameras and reporters. The lawyers asked for an adjournment. Suddenly the story hungry media had been left empty handed.
The judge asked who was representing Tony Watkins and was rather dismayed to find that I was representing myself. He obviously felt I was about to be outmanouvered. Not so. The Council had been so dismissive in their judgement that they had said it would not be necessary to cut the kauri tree down. Their lawyer had advised them that they could not win. He rose to his feet and conceded the case.
The media had their story. It was all about the first tree to be protected in New Zealand. They wanted to head out to Papatoetoe with my mother so that she could be photographed in front of the tree. She was worried that they might feel that this was not a mighty Tane Mahuta, but rather an ordinary kauri tree not yet a hundred years old.
From small beginnings however the world changed. Other people realised that they too could ask for trees to be protected. Councils stopped laughing.