The Far North will lose one of its most attractive avenues of historic trees today.
Time has caught up with a row of historic elms lining State Highway 1 at Pakaraka, about 15km northwest of Kawakawa.
The trees could date to the time Marianne Williams had the Church of the Holy Trinity built in memory of her husband, pioneer missionary Henry Williams. It opened in 1873, replacing a church built in 1850-51.
The six remaining roadside elms are to be cut down today, with both lanes briefly closed to traffic each time one is felled. Clean-up and stump grinding will continue tomorrow, with work scheduled next week to prepare the shoulder for a replanting ceremony featuring English oaks on June 21.
Northland Treeworks manager Ben Howell said an inspection last year by climbers equipped with probes found the elms were in an advanced state of decline: "The climbers weren't too keen to go up again, they were that unstable."
Mr Howell said it was always a shame when old trees had to come down but the elms were threatening public safety, the road and church property.
The New Zealand Transport Authority, not the Far North District Council, has responsibility for the elms because they line a state highway.
Henry Williams is buried in the churchyard, with other notable figures from the Bay of Islands' early history. The great warrior chief, Hone Heke, was buried nearby on what used to be Henry Williams' estate, but his remains were moved in 2011 when a new subdivision encroached on his burial cave.