The Far North District Council has confirmed one of its contractors sprayed native trees including pōhutukawa planted in a community project near Waimate North.
On Saturday the Advocate reported local residents were baffled and dismayed by the deaths of dozens of pōhutukawa, tōtara and other natives along Te Ahu Ahu Rd. The trees had been planted about 20 years ago.
A man driving a ute had been seen spraying roadside vegetation early last month but at the time locals assumed he was carrying out weed control.
Council spokesman Ken Lewis said a 1km section of Te Ahu Ahu Rd had been sprayed as part of a Government-funded Covid employment and economic recovery project.
''The contractor responsible for the spraying has confirmed staff recently employed to undertake recovery projects had inadvertently sprayed native plants along the road. We have contacted and apologised to a Te Ahu Ahu Rd resident and are working on ways to address the mistake,'' he said.
However, Lewis said the incident raised wider issues related to roadside planting.
The council understood residents wanted to beautify their areas but staff didn't know the plantings existed and hence the need to avoid spraying the area.
The main, concern, however, was the safety of road users.
''Plantings can reduce visibility for drivers and frequently encroach on to the carriageway over time, further compromising road safety. They can also interfere with overhead power lines. In urban areas, tree roots often damage underground water, sewer and other services, increasing maintenance costs for ratepayers.''
Lewis said the council wasn't opposed to people carrying out roadside plantings but they should seek advice to ensure road safety and services weren't compromised.
However, one of the Waimate North residents who raised concerns about the spraying said very few of the trees affected driver visibility.
John Beachman said the choice of targets was ''baffling''. There were many instances where one tree had been sprayed but the tree next to it, which was closer to the road, had not.
The pōhutukawa were planted in the late 1990s in a community project led by the late Bob Molloy of Kerikeri, who wanted to create a ''crimson trail'' stretching from Kaikohe to Paihia via Waimate North.