A property owner has been labelled an "eco-terrorist" after he sent a cafe worker to remove branches from a nearby tree.

But John Visser says he is far from it, and he removed the tree limbs because they swing near powerlines.

Visser, who owns the property on Sumner's Esplanade, requested that a staff member from the rented cafe remove some of the branches for safety reasons.

Planting the Norfolk pine 20 years ago, Visser told the Herald: "Its branches have touched the powerlines and it's created a concern with me.

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"Also boys have been climbing up the tree - as boys do - and they could have been electrocuted."

Sending a Blackbird Cafe and Bar worker up the tree, the man used a ladder to climb up the tree to a point where he started to remove branches.

Darrell Latham was walking past the tree yesterday afternoon with his wife when he saw the man in the tree going "hell for leather" with a handsaw.

Latham, a Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board member, said he took photos.

"It's bloody ugly now.

"I don't think in this day and age it's reasonable for people to pick up and handsaw, climb up a tree and cut off limbs of these coastal trees willy-nilly."

Latham told the Herald the area was popular with locals and tourists, and the trees along the coast were special to Sumner.

"Those trees are iconic.

"I think the trees certainly on the coast side possibly do [have heritage status], this one is on the other side of the road so I'm not sure which status it has," Latham said.

The tree after its branches were removed, with the power lines running behind it. Photo / Darrell Latham
The tree after its branches were removed, with the power lines running behind it. Photo / Darrell Latham

Because Visser planted the tree, he thought it was his responsibility to care for it and remove the branches.

He said he sought a quote from an arborist on the cost to remove the branches.

When they failed to get back to him, he thought "bugger it" and resolved the issue himself by sending someone up with a saw.

Visser said had he known that people would label him an eco-terrorist, he would have left the tree alone.

"I probably would have never planted it 20 years ago if I knew it would give me this much trouble."