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Request to fell over 100 redwoods knocked back

By Peter de Graaf

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The redwoods along the boundary of Kerikeri Retirement Village have won a stay of execution.
The redwoods along the boundary of Kerikeri Retirement Village have won a stay of execution.

Kerikeri's redwood trees have been spared the chop.

At a meeting in Moerewa on Wednesday members of the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa community board voted 5-1 to reject a request to fell a stand of more than 100 redwoods on a council reserve between Hawkings Cres and Kerikeri Retirement Village.

The trees stir strong passions in the Bay of Islands town. Planted as a windbreak about 80 years ago the trees are a distinctive feature of Kerikeri's skyline but some residents, plus trustees of the retirement village, worry the trees could topple onto nearby homes. They also cast unwelcome shade in winter.

Late last year village trustee Mike Simm asked the board for permission to have the stand felled, prompting the board to seek public views. In total 174 submissions were received with 147, or 84 per cent, opposing removal of the redwoods.

Experts gave contradictory evidence about the health of the trees. An arborist hired by the trust said the trees were past their best and would eventually have to be removed. Another arborist, hired by the Far North District Council, said the trees would need to be checked regularly and any unhealthy trees removed, but the majority were in good condition.

Mr Simm was disappointed with the decision to keep the trees, saying it had been made on emotive rather than business grounds.

The trust's expert had said they would have to be cut down in the foreseeable future and there was now a window of opportunity to remove them at no expense to the ratepayer. The value of the timber could cover the estimated $45,000 cost of felling the trees and the Trust was prepared to pay the shortfall if the trees turned out to be rotten.

However, that window would not stay open forever. The longer the trees remained the less likely it was the timber would be usable.

Shade cast by the trees in winter affected the quality of life of village residents and dropped foliage added to maintenance costs, Mr Simm said.

The trees also posed a health and safety risk and provided cover for undesirable activities, he added.

Board member Doug Turner said if the redwoods were removed they could be replaced with lower-growing natives and a long-planned walkway to Jacaranda Place could finally be built.

Council community policy manager Sue Hodge said keeping the redwoods could cost a few thousand dollars a year in arborists' bills, but they were not the only trees in the district that cost money to maintain.

A second stand of redwoods lines Wendywood Lane on New World's boundary but does not affect the village. When that stand was thinned in 2010 feelings ran so hot police were called after a resident rammed a contractor's vehicle.

The decades-old debate over keeping or felling the trees was revived in 2007 after a storm sent a branch crashing through a retirement village window.

Council policy is that healthy trees on council land should be retained.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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