Editorial: Disregard for trees barren of aesthetic sense

By Annemarie Quill


I was delighted to hear this week that Tauranga City Council is preparing massive cuts.

Finally, are we seeing evidence of the restructuring that council is promising?

No. The planned axing is not for the council dead wood, but 11 mature pohutukawa trees along Mount Maunganui's Marine Parade.

Crimson at Christmas, here before us, an icon of New Zealand's coastline - pohutukawa are taonga for everyone from locals to tourists, both for the aesthetics of the environment and historic significance.

I'm told a tougher coastal tree would be hard to find, for the pohutukawa will grow in the most inhospitable of environments, in rocky beach areas, withstanding cold coastal winds, waves and harsh sun.

Their hardiness is reflected in Maori myth which says an ancient pohutukawa is the last earthly hand-hold of the spirit before leaping into the next world.

If the council has its way, the spirit will have to make do with a parking space as its last goodbye.

For trees' ability to survive inhospitable environments does not extend to the axe of the council arborist.

Two of the trees will be felled within the next two weeks and the rest are planned to go in five-to-10 years.

The council says the pohutukawa have grown too close to the road and require pruning to maintain distance from parked cars.

They say the option of closing these affected car parks "would have not been welcomed by the public".

I don't recall being asked. A Mount resident we spoke to described the trees as "characterful, handsome and ubiquitous" and did not support their removal.

But Councillor David Stewart said other residents welcomed the removal of the trees because it improved their view.

My daughter asked me recently what a "sea view" was, having heard me talking about this pohutakawa issue.

I explained it was when people liked to see the sea from their houses.

This was considered important and made the houses sought after.

She considered awhile and said: "But if they like the view so much why don't they just cross the road then they can see the whole sea."


Ministry of Education science adviser Simon Taylor has issued a challenge to save the trees.

He says their survival will boil down to people's belief about the importance of trees.

For some city dwellers, trees are a nuisance that hide views, block the sun and deliver unwelcome presents from birds on bonnets.

Others see them as adding character and beauty to a city, as well as welcome shade, nectar for tui and a habitat for birds.

In larger cities around the world, much older than Tauranga, there are established tree-lined suburbs of hundreds of years old.

Like Mr Taylor, I am disappointed that the council has decided to put parking on Marine Pde before the beauty and natural advantages of allowing the trees to stay.

Apart from being robbed of cultural and aesthetic icons, isn't it ironic that in a region of a country with one of the highest cancer rates in the world, the council is felling natural shade?

Councillors need to do their duty and represent the majority who love the harbour and coast.

Whether you make your voice heard is up to you.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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