Redwoods under threat

By Peter de Graaf

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Arborist Greg Robinson with a piece of rotten redwood from a tree felled in 2010.
Arborist Greg Robinson with a piece of rotten redwood from a tree felled in 2010.

Time could be running out for a stand of landmark redwood trees in central Kerikeri.

Some Kerikeri residents see the redwoods as a menace, threatening surrounding homes. Others see them as an attractive part of Kerikeri's skyline and a windbreak contributing to the town's pleasant microclimate.

Either way, feelings over the trees run high. The last time the stand was thinned, in 2010, a contractor's car was rammed and police were called.

The 80-year-old redwoods are in two stands totalling about 300 trees along Wendywood Lane and Hawkings Cres.

The Far North District Council has them checked annually by an arborist and had 15 cut down in 2010, a result of storms in 2007 bringing a branch down onto the neighbouring Kerikeri Retirement Village.

Now the Kerikeri Retirement Village Trust has asked the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board for permission to fell 142 redwoods on the Hawkings Cres council reserve. The trust says the trees are old and show increasing signs of weakening, making them a hazard to village residents and the community.

The trust developed a plan to fell the trees and plant the reserve in grass at no cost to council or ratepayers. The cost of the work, previously estimated at up to $100,000, may be partly recouped from selling the timber.

A council-hired arborist inspected the Hawkings Cres redwoods in September and concluded they posed no immediate risk to people or property. He recommended, however, that four trees between New World and Wendywood Lane be removed. The felling would cost about $3000.

The community board considered the trust's proposal at its November meeting but deferred its decision because council policy requires decisions about removing healthy park trees to be made only after public consultation.

Board chairman Terry Greening said the Hawkings Cres redwoods were not listed in the District Plan as notable trees but were special to many people.

Council staff will survey households in the area and invite Kerikeri residents to send submissions to community policy manager Sue Hodge, email ask.us@fndc.govt.nz (with 'Redwoods' in the subject line) or fill in a form at Kerikeri's Procter Library. Submissions close January 31. The board is expected to make a decision on February 12.

According to Kerikeri history buff Florence Annison, the redwoods were planted as a windbreak in 1929 by George Alderton on what was then a "wind-swept plateau". Mr Alderton is credited with founding Kerikeri's horticulture industry and the Northern Advocate.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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