Chainsaw massacre: 25 years of beauty on Kawau Island trashed

By Andrew Stone

John Pettit took these pictures of felled rare palms on his property on Kaway Island 20 March 2016. Vector cut the trees down to place a corridor of power pylons across his land picture supplied&#
John Pettit took these pictures of felled rare palms on his property on Kaway Island 20 March 2016. Vector cut the trees down to place a corridor of power pylons across his land picture supplied&#

A couple who spent 25 years establishing a showpiece garden on Kawau Island are devastated a crew clearing a corridor under powerlines on their land laid waste to some of their most precious palm specimens.

Retired nurseryman John Pettit and his wife Shirley accuse a team contracted to Vector of acting with indecent haste and failing to do the work while the couple were present and able to supervise the chainsaw gang.

A furious Mr Pettit, a former regional councillor who was involved with the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manuwera, said some of the palms were irreplaceable. He also said that at 85 he was too old to replant what had been lost.

Mr Pettit accepted that some plants needed trimming or removing to ensure they did not interfere with overhead lines but was adamant the contractors removed vegetation that would never cause problems.

He is also upset that a lot of understorey was damaged when the largest palms were cut.

"I feel they've just invaded our private property. There was no need for them to do this".

One of the palms, a Ravenea rivularis, was a 3.5m mature specimen "and would not have interfered with the lines."

Small kentia palms had been crushed by larger trunks smashing down on them.

Mr Pettit said: "I had tears in my eyes when saw the damage they had done."

The Pettit's property is in Starboard Arm at the head of North Cove. Over the years, the couple planted it out, with Mr Pettit drawing on his botanical background to create what the couple call a "blended landscape".

They say that after being advised by Vector that crews were clearing land beneath powerlines to create 10m-wide corridors, they told the lines company that they wanted to be present when the gang reached their property. Vector maintains that an arborist spoke to "someone on the property" but Mr Pettit says no trained arborist would have stood by and permitted the destruction.

Vector maintains that the 14-day response to a "cut and trim" notice issued on February 22 advising that crews would be working between March 7 and 11 was received after the job was done.

The lines company offered to clear up the mess but Mr Pettit said he didn't want Vector staff "anywhere near our property".

In a written statement, Minoru Frederiksens, Vector's group general manager network services, said an apology had been made "to the customer for the miscommunication".

Mr Frederiksens said the clearance project required removing or trimming "vegetation encroaching on our overhead lines that was impacting on service to our customers".

"We use arborists to assess the impact of vegetation and the arborist in this instance, recommended removal."

He added: "Obviously, from our perspective, we need to ensure customers are communicated with effectively and in a timely manner, and that work is done to a high standard but we also have to ensure the network is safe and that vegetation doesn't cause outages.

"We apologise for the distress caused by the incident and have taken the necessary steps to review and improve our own processes."

- NZ Herald

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