Editorial: Old timer's sudden end saddens


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If someone had asked me on Monday what a Moreton Bay fig was, I'd have shrugged.

After all, it's not only a tree of the exotic variety - it's an Australian.

Yet as of late last week, the noted Clive Square number was the most talked about specimen on the street.

Truth be told I felt somewhat guilty when learning this splendid 110-year-old was cut down on Monday.

Guilty because its felling coincided with the publication of a missive I'd penned bemoaning this province's preference for trees not found naturally on these Shaky Isles.

My column acted as some sort of macabre eulogy - or death knell - of one of Napier's best known trees. Wind damaged after mid-week gales, it was decided to de-throne the unequivocal king of Clive Square.

I don't blame the council for making the call. A local authority needs to reflect society's perception of what constitutes a threat. I'd say most in the community would have given a sombre tip of the hat to the chainsaws.

But I'm left wondering whether the threat was imminent. Wondering whether death by crushing would be far less likely than dying on our roads.

I wonder how many limbs of this old tree fell in its 110 years. If none, then last week's was a freak accident. If many, then there have been no cases of injury or death - freakish.

Given the presence of a prominent treescape in this country, there's an implied and consented degree of risk in gracing our public spaces with trees. Our parks, and indeed many of our backyards, boast trees 10-fold the height of this fig. We walk under them every day.

In China this year I witnessed a completely different stance.

That is, any aged or ailing tree, and there were plenty, was propped up with metal crutches. Trees had right of place in China's urban landscape. Buildings were erected around them. Branches ascending into powerlines were left untouched, they lived with it, or changed the direction of the powerlines.

This courtesy is, of course, relative to a tree's rarity, age and amenity - all things this fig ostensibly had in its favour. All this when I don't even like exotic trees.

But put simply, I think it's more than sad that this tree's autopsy came so soon after its surgery.

Here stood a most unusual tree. Dali-like, its all-reaching limbs were dynamically static - limbs that defied the laws of physics.

A defiance that lasted until Wednesday night, when it succumbed to a centenarian's worst enemy - the laws of gravity. Ironically, as science folklore has it, it's the very law sparked by an apple falling on someone's head while sitting happily under a tree.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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