It was with a heavy heart that Jan Dearing took one last photograph of the phoenix palms intact outside Taradale Primary School this morning.

She part of a group of locals who launched a last-ditch opposition to a move by the Napier City Council to remove the trees, planted on Arbor Day in the New Zealand centennial year of 1940, following concerns expressed by the school's Board of Trustees.

"It's awful. I think council always intended that they would come down and the consultation process was poor to say the least."

On Monday a council spokesperson said the school board had written to them earlier this year with health and safety concerns, listing dead pigeons, rats, faecal matter, falling fronds and visibility issues at the pedestrian crossing.

Advertisement

However, some residents cried foul at the proposal to remove the palms, expressing their belief that the council had not explored all options to save the trees and had an agenda to plan for a shared pathway in the area.

"I think the problem for the school is the poos but if that's the reason to take out those trees, all the ones on Kennedy Rd and Nelson Park would have to go as well, wouldn't they?" Dearing said.

Council contractors worked to remove several palm trees on Church Rd yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown
Council contractors worked to remove several palm trees on Church Rd yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown

The trees are not identified under the District Plan as notable trees, however New Zealand Tree Register manager Brad Cadwallader says that doesn't meant they're not significant.

"The trees might be notable to an individual, a community or to the nation. I would suggest if they were Arbor Day plantings and they were that old that there would be an acceptable level of significance to see them acknowledged in this way."

He said most local authorities didn't protect trees on council land, but added the palms in question "certainly" had their equals that were protected in many locations throughout the country.

"Generally councils try to safeguard heritage items on private land but this does speak to, I guess one could say, a double standard.

"I think it would be fair to say that these have some heritage value because they're commemorative trees and it's clear that the local community are already feeling their loss.

"I think if they were evaluated they would probably have meet the test of a protected tree. It's just that they haven't been through that process."​​​

The palm trees in question had their fronds removed by midday yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown
The palm trees in question had their fronds removed by midday yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown

Hawkes Bay Today

put a number of questions to the Napier City Council about the significance of the trees and their public consultation process but they declined to answer any, stating they didn't have anything to add to the matter yesterday.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton said it was his understanding that the council had done its due diligence.

"At the end of the day we were approached and asked to have them removed by the school.

"We undertook what I'm told is the absolute appropriate consultation with the affected parties and my understanding is there was an overwhelming majority that wanted them removed."

John Reid, who has lived on the road for five years, said he fully supported the council's move to chop the trees, adding he wanted to see the entire lot go.

"[It's difficult] getting in and out of the property; trying to get on to the road it's hard to see traffic and pedestrians coming. By choice I walk on the other side of the road because of all the [faeces] and rubbish that falls out of them and covers the footpath."

Dalton would not comment on whether or not he thought the palm trees were of significance to the area.

"I'm not going there. As far as I'm concerned we were asked to remove them, we did the appropriate due diligence and the overwhelming response was that they be removed so that's what we'll do."

Hawkes' Bay Today was unable to reach Taradale Primary School principal Marty Hantz for comment.