Tauranga City Council has been urged to put beauty before cars and save 11 mature pohutukawa trees along Mount Maunganui's Marine Parade.
Two of the trees will be felled within the next two weeks and the rest were planned to go in five to 10 years, once replacement trees had become well established.
The challenge to save the 50-year-old pohutukawa has been issued by Ministry of Education science adviser Simon Taylor who said it boiled down to people's beliefs about the importance of trees.
He was disappointed that the council had decided to put parking on Marine Parade before the beauty and natural advantages of allowing the trees to stay.
"That is where the tension is. The council thinks that car parks are more important than the amenity value of the pohutukawa."
The 11 trees were growing close to the side of the road, between Banks Ave and Sutherland Ave, and had been heavily pruned to maintain a legal clearance from parked cars. Faced with the prospect of weakening the trees by regular pruning, the council decided that the best long-term option was to replace the nine pohutukawa once the juvenile trees planted behind had established themselves.
Council arborist Richard Conning said the two trees to be removed already had established pohutukawa growing behind them. Another pohutukawa in poor health had been taken out because pruning was not an option.
He said the situation with pohutukawa was that over time they went from being a light brushy tree to having several big leaders that drooped. These big leaders had drooped and entered the road zone.
Mr Conning said the council had pruned back the leaders but because the trees were so close to the road, they would grow back again and cause the same problem.
He said the other option was to close the carparks to accommodate the growth of the trees, but it was decided that given the high demand for parking over the summer, this would not have been welcomed by the public.
"We are talking about the loss of quite a number of carparks."
He said meetings took place with neighbouring residents and it had taken a lot of work to achieve this result.
Mr Taylor, who lives in Muricata Ave, believed that the road should be narrowed at the trees - continuing the pattern further up Marine Parade where it was pinched for pedestrian crossings.
"I am not trying to belittle the council. I want to help people make informed choices."
Mr Taylor said councillors needed to do their duty and represent the majority that loved the harbour and coast, particularly the reserves that allowed people to enjoy the coastal setting.
He said the pohutukawa provided nectar for tui and a habitat for birds and were welcome shade. "They are 'characterful', handsome and ubiquitous."
Councillor David Stewart said he did not like to see the trees go, but in this case they did not have many options. His meetings with residents had seen a number welcome the removal of the trees because it would improve their views. They had become upset when it was suggested that replacement trees would be planted.