The fate of a avocado tree that is at least 44 years old and has divided a neighbourhood will be decided today.
The tree is on a Tauranga City Council berm on 13th Ave but owners of 5 13th Ave are fighting to have the tree removed as part of plans to subdivide the property. The prospect has sparked deep concern from neighbours who want the tree - believed to be at least 44 years old - to stay.
In January, property owners Garry and Luanne Bettelheim applied under the council's Vegetation and Tree Management Policy to have the tree removed for the purpose of a subdivision.
Removing the tree would create practical car access, in accordance with the City Plan, to the property's proposed design but council staff declined the application as the request did not meet clauses required.
The Bettelheims, who have owned the property for six years, appealed and a council manager overturned the decision after consideration was given to Tauranga's need for intensification, plus housing and land supply.
The council was inundated with appeals to save the tree and under the Vegetation and Tree Management Policy and elected members will today determine the tree's fate.
In submissions to the council, neighbours Graeme and Barbara Fraser questioned how the proposed development supported intensification and how this compared to the loss of a local amenity such as the avocado tree.
"The intensity of the proposed development leaves no scope for trees and very limited vegetation onsite. This means that it is more important to retain the existing, mature tree to minimise the effect of the development itself.
"It is well-nigh impossible to provide adequate mitigation for the loss of a mature tree," they said.
Phil Green, chairman of the Grace Road And Neighbourhood Residents Association and architectural designer, said the issue was more than just the removal of a healthy tree.
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"To allow a decision to be reversed by the word 'intensification' is appalling. We know we all need to accept intensification in certain controlled areas, in fact, I am an advocate of it.
"But, not at the demise of landscapes that enhance urban streets and parks."
Green said it was up to architects, designers and property owners to add to Tauranga's living spaces.
Christine Price and Tom Lehner said they were "extremely surprised, shocked and saddened to discover the council overturned its decision to retain a mature avocado tree solely to accommodate a driveway".
"This avocado tree feeds the native birdlife and surrounding community, including St Mary's school."
The Bettelheims said the tree removal would not have a significant impact in an established street with many mature trees and more recent plantings.
The couple said they ran a letter drop to 60 direct neighbours about their plans and commitment to replace the avocado tree. They had plenty of support but many of their supporters did not want to publicly provide their support, they said.
Submissions included several statements of support, or no objection, from other neighbours.
The Bettelheims said in their view, it was "extremely unfortunate that this issue has resulted in valuable council time being spent on the matter".
The issue will be deliberated on from 9.30am today at the council meeting in the city chambers.