Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Piha's $12,000 money tree

Community divided over plan to chop heritage tree blocking footpath

Megan Vertelle in front of the limb of the Piha pohutukawa tree she wants to save. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Megan Vertelle in front of the limb of the Piha pohutukawa tree she wants to save. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Auckland Council has spent $12,300 on preparations to chop a limb off a pohutukawa tree that is obstructing a West Auckland footpath.

But the money will be wasted after a local board got wind of the move and, following urging from tree enthusiasts, voted to seek alternatives.

The board also rejected an Auckland Transport suggestion that the limb would not need to be cut if a $20,000 boardwalk were built over a deep roadside creek to take pedestrians around the tree.

"We can't afford $20,000 for one tree," said board member Judy Lawley, who moved that the board ask the council agency to present other options for consideration.

The large pohutukawa overhangs a footpath leading to the Piha Surf Club. A resident had complained that the tree was dangerous to pedestrians.

Auckland Transport official Roger Wilson said the organisation had spent the money intending to remove one of the tree's two limbs.

But that was before it became a public issue and the agency realised it was not an appropriate matter for it to decide without reference to the Waitakere Ranges Local Board.

A new plan was then suggested by the board - turning Beach Valley Rd into a shared space for pedestrians and cars, such as the council has done in downtown Auckland's Elliott St and Fort St.

But board member Mark Brickell said creating shared space would take a long time and a lot of consultation.

"I think the limb should go down now because it obstructs the footpath."

Community opinion on the increasingly expensive tree is divided.

Protect Piha Heritage member Megan Vertelle, who lives on the road, supported shared space.

"This is a spectacularly beautiful canopy of pohutukawa to walk under and a lot of people in the community say it should be kept complete."

And she offered a "free" solution.

"We suggest a trial with a simple sign saying 'Duck' - so nobody bangs their head, or just removing the barriers so people could easily walk round the limb."

Bobbie Carroll, of the Beach Valley Road Project, said the road was used by mothers pushing prams, children and the elderly, and served the surf club and the RSA clubrooms.

"Shared space at one of the most dangerous intersections in Piha?I don't think so."

Expensive branch
* $6951 charged by Auckland Transport (costs case for resource consent, engineer and arborist's fees plus travel charges)
* $2832.38 by Auckland Parks, Sports & Recreation (incurred costs $1294 plus budgeted removal costs $1538.38)
* $2516 for resource consent processing
* $12,299.38 total costs to date

- NZ Herald

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