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Cunliffe’s plan to climb kauri tree may actually encourage it to be felled

Advocates of the tree are now “certain” it will be cut down when Cunliffe scales it tomorrow morning.

Advocates of the tree are now “certain” it will be cut down when Cunliffe scales it tomorrow morning.

Labour MP David Cunliffe’s plan to climb a 500-year-old kauri tree in order to save it, may in fact place it in more danger, the Auckland Council is warning.

The tree, which is due to be felled to make way for the construction of two new properties in the Auckland suburb of Titirangi, is the subject of intense local and national debate, though both the Council and Government say they have little power to stop it.

One man, Michael Tavares, has scaled the tree, and says he is the only thing preventing it from being cut down.

But now former Labour leader David Cunliffe wishes to join him, telling media today that he is considering climbing the tree personally.

“That tree is in my electorate,” thundered Cunliffe in Parliament this morning, “and I’ll be damned if I let it get taken down without a fight. That’s why, tomorrow, at dawn, I’ll be joining that young man up that very old tree.”

That promise caused alarm amongst those still hoping to save the kauri, many of them believing that the tree would be “doomed” if Cunliffe were to climb it.

“Oh fuck no, please, no,” said Tavares, when told of the plan. “If he gets up here, they’ll cut down the tree for sure.”

Auckland mayor Len Brown agreed that Cunliffe’s ascension of the tree would likely be “counterproductive” to the cause.

“Look, there are some of us, at the moment, who are exploring our options, behind the scenes, to try and save this thing,” he said. “That young man is buying us some time.

“The moment David gets up there, though, they’re going to look at that and say ‘Right, well, there’s our incentive to cut it down.’ We can’t give them that.”

While no other Labour MPs expressed a desire to join Cunliffe up the tree, they were a lot less worried about him doing so.

“David can climb the tree if he likes,” said Labour leader Andrew Little. “I mean, I understand that if he does, there’s a chance he might come down in one piece, but, you know, oh well.”

Asked if he wanted Cunliffe to “be careful” up the tree, Little replied “No.”

Despite many objections, all indications are that Cunliffe will go ahead with his stunt tomorrow morning, when he plans to adorn the tree with candles and portraits of himself, before scaling it.