It's a case of taking away pōhutukawa and taking away the parking lot at Whangārei's Town Basin as plans proceed for a $6.6 million new park.
The project encompasses 1ha of the former Canopy Bridge carpark, which closed in October last year, and some of the boardwalk area near the Hundertwasser Art Centre building, taking out around 20 mature trees including seven pōhutukawa.
Planted in 1995 as part of the first Town Basin redevelopment, five pōhutukawa situated between the river and the carpark were felled on Wednesday, with a further two, closer to the Canopy Bridge, cut down on Friday last week.
However, Whangārei District Council (WDC) project manager Deva Howat said, while the project saw the removal of seven pōhutukawa, one, situated on the river bank was retained and a further 14 will be planted in winter, as part of 160 new trees at the park.
"The seven pōhutukawa trees that are being removed will be replaced with 14 medium to large pōhutukawa trees," confirmed Howat. "In total, the new park will have 160 new trees planted and nearly 5000 new plants."
He said the pōhutukawa were purchased from a nursery two years ago and had been well looked-after in that time and were already a decent size with some over 5m.
The majority of the 20 trees, which WDC had a resource consent to be removed, were palms.
While a small amount of the pōhutukawa was taken away for fire wood, the remainder was mulched.
"Transplanting them was considered but it is expensive and success is not guaranteed so, as recommended by the arborist, it was decided to fell them and replace them with new mature healthy trees in the right location," explained Howat.
The WDC plans state that the park "is being built on land rich in Māori and European history and these cultural narratives are woven into the new park's design." However, as well as resource consent, local hapū had given their blessing.
"We have collaborated with hapū on the park design and the earlier question of what should be done with that part of the Town Basin. Te Parawhau (hapū) conducted a ritual karakia ceremony for the site before the construction started."
A ritual karakia was performed for all the trees that were to be removed.
The felled trees did not fit the design for the new park and were situated where there will be terraced lawns with seating facing the water.
Owner of the nearest businesses Mokaba and Riverside Cafe, Justin Le Cheminant, was surprised to hear the trees had been removed.
"It's news to me," he said. "I shall go for a walk and have a look. But I presume it's for the greater good of the area so, if they're going to be replacing them, then I'm fine with it."
Nearby Nautical Trendz shop assistant Angie Salmen was shocked to hear of the pōhutukawa removal.
"I think they're part of the Town Basin. It makes the picture complete and it's the New Zealand Christmas tree and it's always nice to explain that to tourists. I'm really gutted and think we should have been consulted," she said.
However, she was pleased to hear they would be replaced.
Said Howat: "I understand that it is disappointing to see native trees cut down but it was decided to remove seven pōhutukawa trees because they did not enable the best outcome for a design that would convert the location to terraced lawns with areas of seating and shade trees, catering to more users and better connecting with the waterfront."
"The new park is going to be a great thing for the people of Whangārei."
The park has been in the planning since 2015 and aims to link the waterfront, Loop Walkway and the central city.
The final design incorporates public feedback on a range of concepts and will include an amphitheatre and lawn area for community events and recreation, an interactive water feature with illuminated sequenced water jets, terraced waterfront seating, a small balance park to complement the existing Town Basin playground currently under construction, a large kinetic sculpture and public amenities. It will also include 4753 new plants.
The park is yet to be named and will undergo a three-step process; the public will be asked to submit ideas before a shortlist of five names will be selected by a group of representatives from WDC and Te Parawhau hapū.
The winning name will be selected from the shortlist after a vote by councillors and the mayor. The park is due for completion alongside the opening of the neighbouring Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery.
Hundertwasser himself was said to be fond of pōhutukawa trees with one of his works depicting the rouge-bloomed tree.