Two large, previously protected magnolia trees thought to be around 70 years old have been felled in Auckland today to improve views of a historic statue.
The trees stood at the Manukau Rd entrance to Cornwall Park in the vicinity of the fountain topped with a statue of one of the city's founding settlers, the businessman and politician Sir John Logan Campbell.
Resource consent for the removal of the 10m-tall trees was granted to the park trust board by Auckland Council commissioners in February, following a hearing in December at which some expressed opposition to the scheme.
Of 15 submissions, 11 opposed the plan and four were in support.
Some city residents today expressed their disappointment at the removal of the trees, which were scheduled as notable in the region's unitary plan.
"It's not right," said Sudesh Mittal, of Remuera, adding that Auckland didn't have enough trees.
John Ashby, of Mt Eden, said, "I think the arguments for taking out those fine trees is pretty flimsy.
The board's heritage consultant, Adina Brown, had said in a report that the magnolias were not part of the original landscape plan when the statue and fountain were unveiled in 1906.
The Campbell monument was of "exceptional historic heritage value", but not the trees.
"The magnolia trees themselves are of little/no historical value because they are not associated with Sir John Logan Campbell or any other notable historical figure.
"They were not part of any of the historical events that have taken place in the park, such as the unveiling of the statue or commemoration of ... Campbell's death. They are not known to have a strong public association."
"The tree removal will significantly improve the visual dominance of the Logan Campbell fountain and statue both within the park and when viewed from surrounding footpaths and roads, as was the original design intent."
But Ashby said improving the views was insufficient in his opinion to justify removing two "beautiful, 70-year-old trees".
"There's no reason they couldn't have trimmed them and kept them for another 20 years and taken them out when the new trees have grown."
He said that after he highlighted the removal of the trees on social media today there was an enormous response from people across the city.
The trees were magnificent specimens of a magnificent species. They weren't rotten, dangerous or in the way.
"I think their only crime is they weren't natives. I think we need to re-examine our thinking about that."
Park director Michael Ayrton said, "Now the trees are gone we are looking at undertaking redevelopment and restoration work at the Manukau Rd entrance which was the original entrance when the park opened 112 years ago in the days before Green Lane Rd existed."
Other trees have already been removed in the area as part of the changes.
"The work will restore the fountain to its more original form, make the area more user-friendly with additional pathways, lighting and seating as well as introducing an extensive native garden of some 4000 plants as well as planting an additional 40 puriri and totara trees," Ayrton said.
The trust board has not revealed the upgrade's budget.
Ayrton has previously said: "The cost of this work is confidential to the trust, but obviously does not involve any public expenditure and is consistent with honouring the legacy of Sir John."
Campbell gave the park to New Zealand and running it is funded by the trust board's resources, also provided by Campbell.