Former Tūrangi-Tongariro Community Board member Ian Ashmore says frustration over the Taupō District Council's tree management ultimately led to his resignation from the board.
Mr Ashmore was the third community board member to resign since the term started in October 2019. Wally van der Aa resigned shortly after the election for unknown reasons and former board chair Amanda Maclaren stepped down in February saying that although she had struggled to balance her business and board commitments, ultimately the community board was "toothless".
Mr Ashmore resigned on May 30 and Paula McRae, who stood unopposed, has taken his place.
Mr Ashmore is a qualified arborist who has his own company Treeline but was also employed by the Taupō District Council between 2011 and 2018.
He says he stood for the board because the community board needed to work with the council to achieve its goals for Tūrangi.
"As I had worked for council, knew the parks, reserves and trees along with many of the issues with staff, management and the district-wide approach to operations, I thought I might have something to add. I also love Tūrangi and the community and it was a way to try and give back."
With extensive kerbing and channelling work under way around Tūrangi, some of it funded from the government's shovel-ready projects fund, Mr Ashmore says the other board members leaned on him for his input on the town's street trees, many of which are planted in berms that were affected by footpath replacement and kerbing and channelling works.
"To be fair, most of the time I was a one-trick pony but with what was coming with the kerb and channelling and the removal of the trees, they [the board] valued my input."
But he consistently found himself having to raise concerns about the way the trees were being treated, including some trees' roots being cut right through when street works were being done.
Mr Ashmore says this makes a tree unstable and it could topple without warning as happened in Rotorua in January 2018 when a tree fell onto a car, killing the driver.
So he was dismayed when he found four trees on Te Rangitautahanga Rd opposite the Tūrangi Police Station had had their roots completely cut through. When he raised concerns, the council's consultant arborist agreed that the trees had been destabilised and they would have to be removed. The trees are gone but the stumps are still there.
He says he has also repeatedly raised concerns about unstable trees needing urgent action and was ignored.
District parks manager Greg Hadley confrms several trees were damaged by contractors as part of infrastructure works being carried out in Tūrangi. This work was separate to the current street revitalisation kerbing and channelling being carried out.
Mr Hadley says as soon as the council was made aware of the tree damage, arborists assessed the trees and four were subsequently removed. Where appropriate, they would be replanted.
He said that council policy was that during council works, if issues with trees were identified, an arborist would be called in to
assess the tree.
He said the council always worked to address issues raised by customers, including Mr Ashmore.
"We have a number of service requests as well as messages/emails via other council staff that the team has responded to."
But Mr Ashmore says he felt he wasn't being listened to and although he regrets having to resign, he felt he couldn't remain on the board knowing trees were being damaged.
"In the end it was a resignation through frustration more than anything. How many times do you have to keep repeating yourself until you actually realise that nobody really cares, nobody's listening and you think 'I'm just wasting my time'?"
Despite that Mr Ashmore says he loved being on the community board.
"It was a really good team. As a group I think we've achieved quite a lot for the town."
He admits he is "quite polarising" in the Tūrangi-Tongariro area.
"People either love me or hate me. I can live with that."