Five phoenix palms planted outside Taradale Primary School 78 years ago are being cut-down despite last-ditch opposition by some locals who believe the Napier City Council hasn't explored all options to save the trees.
Council iWays co-ordinator Owen Mata confirmed yesterday the trees will come down this week, weather permitting, following concerns expressed by the school's board of trustees.
But opponents, saying the council has not properly consulted and has an agenda to plan for a pathway network — for scooters and cycles as well as walkers — were last night considering ways of stalling the work.
Jan Deering, who says one of the trees is outside her home, hadn't received the notice the council says was delivered to householders and she learnt of the plan only when friends questioned why she hadn't been at a March 8 meeting to discuss the issue, asked last night: "What can we do? Chain ourselves to the trees? Seek an injunction?"
She says the council left it till as late as possible — "too late" — before advising on Friday that the removal would start Monday.
The trees, planted on Arbour Day in the New Zealand centennial year of 1940, are of significance even if not heritage-listed, and the "whole" Taradale community should have been consulted, say Deering and fellow opponent Coni Schulze, who says there "must be other ways" of dealing with "risk factors" the council says are behind the plans.
Council spokesperson Mata said the trees are not identified under the District Plan as notable trees, and have been "a long running issue for the school".
He said the school board wrote to the council earlier this year with health and safety concerns, listing dead pigeons, rats, faecal matter, falling fronds and visibility issues at the pedestrian crossing, but Deering argues there have never been any safety issues.
The council says a letter was sent to Church Rd residents between Ngarimu Cr and Puketapu Rd, inviting them to a public meeting, the school also invited parents and interested parties, and there was a mixture of approval and opposition.
Mata said council staff did an early-evening Church Rd door-knock later in March to talk directly to affected residents, and a majority supported the move, which includes the building of a shared pathway for walkers, scooters and cyclists.
A further Church Rd door-knock took place on April 4 and the NCC also received emails and phone calls from Church Rd residents, most expressing support for the school's request to remove the trees, Mata said.
"The project team has now spoken to most residents in this section of Taradale, and from the feedback gathered it is clear that there is overwhelming and strong support to remove the trees," he said.
A member of the team also last week spoke with the "small" number of residents who had objected, to update them personally, Mata said.
Schulze says the "small group" of people who attended the meeting at the school last month "largely" spoke in favour of retaining the trees, and that "good solutions" were offered to answer the health and safety concerns.
She says people at the meeting believed the pathway was "the real agenda," but that was refuted by council representatives who she says told the meeting the trees were safe until further discussion, leading residents to believe the project would mot be going ahead so soon.