Trees draw ratepayers ire

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Failed fencing around trees planted by the Masterton District Council.
Failed fencing around trees planted by the Masterton District Council.

The sorry state of dead and dying plane trees on Masterton District Council-owned land off Johnstone St on the town's east side has again raised the anger of ratepayers.

Messages to the Times-Age last week once again sought the newspaper's help in getting answers as to why the council has not moved to protect the trees that have been severely damaged on the land leased to a farmer.

One landowner described the continued neglect of the trees -- which were planted to pre-empt an eventual extension of Riverside Cemetery -- as abysmal and an indictment on councillors who "show no concern for the town's appearance and thumb their noses at ratepayers".

A second ratepayer also phoned the newspaper to complain, questioning whether the council had any staff with basic expertise regarding plants and their care.

The renewed anger over the trees comes six months after the publication of previous news stories about their plight.

Last December, Masterton District Council acknowledged the trees had been damaged by grazing cattle and that wooden pallets were being used to build "cost-effective protective structures" to prevent further damage.

At that time, council spokesman Sam Rossiter-Stead said the council was "confident" the trees would fully recover "by next spring". A visit to the site last week revealed no further wooden protection had been added since December and the state of the trees was obviously dire.

They were not protected by any permanent or electric fencing and only by loose-fitting plastic netting and wire attached to fence battens, or in some cases waratah standards that had been pushed askew. Some of the protection barriers had been completely flattened.

The paddock was heavily littered with animal dung, suggesting the land was still being grazed despite the vulnerability of the young trees.

On Friday Mr Rossiter-Stead responded to the fresh complaints, saying the council was aware the trees needed attention and protection from grazing cattle, which has been an ongoing problem.

"The lessee has tried to fence off the trees using hotwires, but several electric fence units have been stolen and cattle have continued to graze near the trees," he said.

Mr Rossiter-Stead said the stock had now been removed and the paddock would remain empty until robust barriers are in place.

The council is committed to "protecting these trees and is working with the lessee to ensure that permanent barriers are erected as soon as possible".

"We have enlisted the help of Makoura College students, who will be able to use the project to complete their unit standards in fencing," he said.

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