Stokes' protest halts tree felling

Plans to fell a much-admired pohutukawa tree in Parua Bay were abandoned after a Whangarei woman scaled the branches to stop it being chopped down.

Police were called to a property on Ritchie Road yesterday morning after conservation and environment management student Robyn Stokes prevented a Northpower arborist from removing the 80-year-old tree by climbing halfway up the 20-metre trunk.

Ms Stokes, a resident on the road for eight years, insisted she would not move until she was provided with proof the pohutukawa was on private - rather than council - property.

She said the property owner had no right to remove the tree if it was on council property.

"We found out on Sunday afternoon they were planning to give it a chop. No one will give us absolute proof that the tree is on private land. The pohutukawa is absolutely beautiful and I refuse to let it be chopped down."

Northpower public affairs manager Steve Macmillan said the Whangarei District Council had confirmed the tree occupied by Ms Stokes was on private land and the neighbouring pohutukawa, less than a metre away, was on council land.

"The landowners asked us to come and remove the tree as it has become an issue. Because the tree is on their land, they are completely entitled to do so," Mr Macmillan said.

The pohutukawa tree on council land had encroached onto 11,000 volt powerlines with the service wires running through both trees onto the property.

According to the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulation Act, Northpower are legally obliged to trim or remove trees 1.6 metres within the growth limit zone from a conductor with notice from the landowner.

Failure to do so can result in a maximum fine of $10,000 with an additional fine of $500 for every day the offence continues.

After two hours in the tree Ms Stokes returned to the ground around 10am following promises of a meeting between the landowners and concerned residents.

Onerahi police constable Darryl Curran said no charges were laid for the incident.

- Northern Advocate

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