A claim that privet is turning into the tree that Thames Coast's Pohutukawa Coast is named after unleashed a storm of online complaints about the pest plant.
TCDC was singled out by many, complaining that it has allowed privet to grow rampant on reserves.
"Never seen it so big or so much! We couldn't believe the council would let it grow like that so assumed it was something else," wrote Kathryn Engebretsen.
"It's time they got out there and cleaned the place up of toxic plants," wrote Denise Kay.
Waikato Regional Council says it cannot force Thames-Coromandel District Council to remove privet from reserves.
However both TCDC and Waikato Regional Council say they've had no complaints.
WRC's biosecurity team say they've received no complaints from anyone on the Thames Coast so far this season and has received just one from a person in the Thames township with no medical evidence that privet was to blame.
"With regard to that one complaint, no medical evidence has been provided, as required in our regional pest management plant, to support the council taking any further action," says Darion Embling, Waikato Regional Council's biosecurity pest plants team leader.
He says there are no rules in the Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan requiring privet to be removed from reserves: "and we can only enforce the removal of privet from public areas if there is a health-related complaint supported by an allergy test".
Laurna White, communications and marketing manager at Thames-Coromandel District Council, says there have been no complaints to TCDC about privet in Thames this year.
"There is land in Thames which is owned privately or managed by other parties that has privet on it. The council is not responsible for the removal of privet on land in Thames that we don't manage.
"We adhere to the Waikato Regional Council Pest Management Plan including destroying privet plants, when authorised, where there is a health-related complaint as in line with the Waikato Regional Council Pest Management Plan."
She said any individual affected by privet should contact Waikato Regional Council with the results of a positive allergy test and WRC will make a decision on whether the privet should be removed.
TCDC's policy says if directed by Waikato Regional Council, privet would be destroyed where:
- An occupier resides or works in a fixed workplace less than 50m from the offending privet
- Any person claiming to be affected by privet in public areas (such as parks, reserves and playgrounds) including thoroughfares.
"Late last year we removed a small number of privet, along with other pest plants in the following areas in Thames-Booms Reserve, road reserve on Reservoir Rd and the south end of Jacobs Ladder," says Ms White.
A separate request for service was also laid with contractors before Christmas for some privet removal at the Karaka track entrance in Thames that was relatively small scale and did not amount to wholesale clearance.
Privet's leaves and berries are poisonous to animals and people.
WRC say its pollen and scent is also believed by some to contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and hay fever but research shows privet is not a strong allergen for most people, which is why a positive allergy test is required before the regional council requires a privet tree to be removed on health grounds.
Privet is also an environmental pest, rapidly invading bush margins and waste areas. Tree privet is capable of crowding out canopy trees in native forests, WRC says.
All landowners or occupiers in the Waikato must destroy privet on their land if the council receives a positive allergy test for privet from a neighbour, or live in a community initiative area.
These include areas of Waihi and Paeroa, Te Aroha and nine other areas but not elsewhere on the Coromandel.
Mr Embling says community initiative areas are a legacy of when there were no rules for privet in the Waikato and were designed to be in small urban areas.
"For them to succeed, the community must be prepared to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, taking on responsibility for monitoring and control, as well as the cost of this work. While there may be support from Waikato Regional Council, our plan says budget and priority may change and should therefore not be relied upon."
He said no such area has been previously set up in Thames or on the Thames Coast
because there has not been the drive from the community.
"We're currently reviewing our regional pest management plan and expect to consult with our communities on it during the year. With this work under way, it's unlikely we would consider a new community initiative."
Some residents said everyone should look in their own backyards to where privet was also growing.
- For advice and additional information on control methods, call WRC pest plant staff on freephone 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732) or talk to chemical company representatives, farm supply stores and garden centres.