An act of vandalism a couple of years ago has finally got the better of a century-old tree in Whanganui's Kowhai Park.

Somebody took an axe to the Washingtonia palm, but rather than remove it altogether Whanganui District Council parks staff decided to leave the tree to see if could recover.

However, parks officer Claire Lilley says the palm has to be removed because it has become weaker and now poses a serious risk to the public.

In recent days someone has put a poster up on the palm which says: "Save me. The council wants to cut me down. Surely there is somebody clever enough to build a brace or sleeve strong enough to save my life. I am 100 years old and part of the city's landscape."

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A Chronicle correspondent said a brace of some sort might be "an inelegant solution, but surely someone can come up with an idea".

But Ms Lilley said the palm had been subject to "dramatic vandalism".

"At the time it was decided to monitor the tree to see whether its condition changed as a result of this cutting. I've inspected it a couple of times and on the last inspection it showed recent vertical splits on both sides of the tree. This is obviously a significant weakness, and the tree is very likely to fail," she said.

She said the palm, at the southern end of the park near the intersection of Anzac Parade and Georgetti Rd, could either fall on to the highway or on to the public walkway, and that was why it had to go.

Ms Lilley said with broadleafed trees, pruning can sometimes mitigate risk, but pruning could not be done to this palm because all the leaf growth is at the top.

"I don't believe a man-made structure will provide a safe, long-term future for this tree.

"While it's one of the older trees in the park, it isn't rare and there are several young Washingtonias growing nearby."

She said removing mature trees was always a difficult decision to make, "however a realistic approach has to be taken and the tree will not recover".

"In my professional view it's highly likely to fail, and it's better to remove it and allow the other trees nearby to fill in the space," she said.