A Havelock North woman chained herself to a walnut tree in an attempt to save it from the chop.

Rachel Coxhead arrived at the Karamu Stream site before sunrise in protest of the scheduled felling of 38 trees by Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

Armed with an apple, a sign and a bag of walnuts, the 52-year-old chose one particular tree that produced the "best walnuts".

"I have been coming here and collecting walnuts for 30 years.

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"When my kids were young we didn't have a lot of money so these trees were a great food source."

She told the workers that if they wanted to cut down that tree they would have to go through her.

A total of 21 poplar and 17 walnut trees were identified by an arborist as posing a potential safety hazard for nearby landowners and members of the public.

The trees are being felled in conversation with the Mary Doyle Retirement Complex, which is due to develop a site adjacent. Generating beneath the poplars are native eucalypts, figs, pittosporum and flaxes, which will come through once the poplars are removed.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council open spaces development officer Antony Rewcastle said in response to Ms Coxhead's request council has decided to retain the tree because it was a good producer of walnuts.

"The tree was reassessed prior to commencing work by myself and an arborist, and it was decided to retain the tree and include it in the maintenance programme."

The walnuts were being carefully extracted as the work progressed.

He said other than Ms Coxhead's protest, the backlash from the decision has been minimal.

"I received some initial phone calls and emails from concerned residents, but once they had read the assessments and understood the background, they had generally accepted the recommendation knowing there is opportunity to explore other parts of the Karamu for walnuts, and that it is an exciting time in the maturing of the Te Karamu Project."

Mary Doyle resident George Mitchell said he now has sunshine in his bedroom and bathroom where previously he would have the lights on from 2pm.

"Everybody needs sunshine," Mr Mitchell said.