Plans to fire up chainsaws in a legacy woodland within the leafy Hawke's Bay settlement of Havelock North has hewn a divide into the community.

George Nelson planted mainly oaks trees in the 8ha section of Keirunga Gardens, and in 1961 gifted the land to the community.

Now Hastings District Council proposes removing dozens of large trees after some fell near a path and neighbours complained of shade and encroachment.

The council's Draft Management Plan was written by local resident Chris Ryan.

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Ryan said the trees had poor root structures and a broken canopy made the soil vulnerable to erosion - many of the trees must be replaced to save the forest.

"The council was asked to either prune severely or remove some of those trees because the residents were concerned that the trees would fall over into their swimming pools and gardens or on their houses," he said.

"This of course annoyed quite a big group of people who thought they shouldn't be cut down.

"So the council compromised and chopped some trees down.

"That created even more stink because the other people thought people who come here to build or buy a house can see the trees, investigate what all the problems are and decide if it is a high risk or not."

But some neighbours love the oak trees and would be sad to see them go.

"We bought the property because of the trees," Shirley Lammas said. "It was one of the selling points for us. We've been here about eight years.

"We have put in writing to the council 'are there any of these trees deemed dangerous' and had a written response to say that they are not.

"Trees down in storms is just what happens, that's the risk that we take by living here. I think it's a risk anyone takes having trees on their property."

Lammas has joined a growing chorus of residents wishing to save the trees.

One resident asked Wairarapa arborist Richie Hill to inspect the threatened trees.

Hill said trees adjacent to private properties have been pruned so much that tree structure was compromised.

"That really needs to be addressed," he said. "It is nothing that couldn't be done by what I would consider good tree management."

Ryan believes Northern Hemisphere trees grow three times faster in New Zealand and also die three times faster, but he admitted there was no hard evidence to support his belief.

Hill said the vigour of the trees was counter to Ryan's theory.

"Here we have trees that are just romping away. Eighty years of age - they are at a height of what you would expect for a healthy tree and that sort of time frame growing as a group."

Many were concerned Nelson's gift to the community was not being respected

"The trees are massively important because he planted them," local resident David Cranwell said.

"I just think it is wrong to take them out without first having proper scientific analysis in saving what can be saved which I believe is most of them.

"I agree some of the trees have failed but when you look at the soil - which is Havelock pan - water runs across the pan and where there is a break water drops out. Those trees with roots that have rotted were because there was continuous water dripping on the root ball.

"But the ones above I don't believe are in danger."

Public submissions on the $190,000 Draft Tree Management Plan close on March 15.

Hastings District Council said the plan was a starting point for discussion. Councillors would consider all views and options before making decisions on how they want to manage the trees.

A Save The Keirunga Oaks page and petition has been launched.

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