Historian laments sale of Aspen site

By John Cousins

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The plan to sell the Aspen Tree Reserve in Tauranga's downtown has shocked city historian Jinty Rorke.

"I think it would be a great shame to see it go, it is a central part of the city's heritage," she said.

Mrs Rorke was responding to the news that the little 1012sqm park on the corner of Willow and McLean St had been put on the list of possible council property sales.

"I guess it has always been an open space around which a lot of activity happened."

Until last year, the park was home to the massive landmark aspen tree that had grown on the site for 146 years until rot forced the council to fell the tree.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Mrs Rorke said people who were saddened by the loss of the tree had consoled themselves with the thought that the council had said it would plant another aspen - meaning the site would be retained as an attractive area for the public.

She said the land on which the reserve sat formed part of the military camp occupied by the 43rd Monmouthshire Light Infantry Regiment and the 68th Durham Light Infantry Regiment during the period around the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864.

"Troops landed on the beach below where the Monmouth Redoubt was built and the reserve was a central part of the military camp."

There was a Robley sketch done during this period of Tauranga's history which looked down over the area that included the reserve, she said.

"With something of that kind of significance to the city right from the very beginning, it would be a shame not to continue with that."

Mrs Rorke suspected that it received more use as a public open space in the days when the former Post Office was the hub of downtown, and the park across the road was a place where people sat to enjoy each other's company.

Mayor Stuart Crosby recalled discussion about replacing the old aspen with a new tree when the council was debating the fate of the rotting aspen, but a new tree had not been part of the final decision.

As for the latest decision to put the reserve on the sale list, he said it generated a lot of discussion within the council.

He acknowledged that when they drew up the list, there would have been things like the historical significance of the Aspen Tree Reserve that the council might not have been aware of.

"That will be taken into account. That is the whole point of putting it [the list] out for public consultation."

Mr Crosby said the list was an interim decision subject to consultation.

A final decision on the reserve would be made around late May and early June. If the sale was ticked off by the council, the revocation of the land's reserve status would then go through another process involving central Government.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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