"We don't want to be like Stratford!"
I was startled by the dismissive comment, made by New Plymouth District (NPDC) councillor Marie Pearce in the middle of a council debate about the troublesome alder trees in New Plymouth's CBD.
Feelings were running high and Marie Pearce was desperately trying to save the trees from removal. Marie Pearce beseeched her fellow councillors to imagine a CBD without trees, and that's when she exclaimed "we don't want to be like Stratford."
I know this to be true, because I was at the council meeting supporting the tree removal faction.
Marie Pearce's comment annoyed me because I thought she was clearly wrong. Stratford has more than 1000 trees. In fact, it's famous for its wide, leafy streets.
South of Broadway (thanks to the legacy of tree enthusiast, former Mayor Percy Thomson 1929-33, 38-47) there are dozens of beech trees which are part of the King George V Memorial.
If you're into tree-spotting, you will have counted 56 trees south of Broadway, from the welcome sign (across from ITM) until you reach Page St, just before the stone bridge which crosses the Patea River.
Driving south from New Plymouth to Stratford, from Flint Rd until just past the intersection of Seyton St and Broadway there are 67 trees.
I was right, Stratford has a spectacular profusion of trees as you drive into town. Marie Pearce was wrong. Or was she? I was in for a surprise.
When it comes to Stratford's actual CBD on Broadway, a distance of around 600 metres, there are no trees. (The Z petrol station, Colonel Malone's and Rod Gordon Solicitor and Barrister have green plants and small trees but they are not on the council footpath).
Instead of trees in the CBD there are clinging ivy plants around 13 power poles, ranging in height from 45 centimetres to a 1.5metres.
I had never noticed them before. To say they are unimpressive would be an understatement.
But underneath them I found something stunning: magnificent wrought iron grates (depicting Shakespeare and saying Stratford upon Patea) made by the famous TePapa Foundry.
Regrettably, the ivy's failing leaves tend to obscures these. Having too much time on my hands, I Googled the relevance of ivy with respect to Shakespeare, Elizabethan culture and Greek mythology.
And yes, there's a thematic tie-in, which explains why the Shakespeare wrought iron grates are underneath ivy. Ivy brings you good luck in terms of finding your romantic soulmate.
But in my opinion, the clinging ivy, though thematically appropriate to Shakespeare, looks sickly and is visually unimpressive.
From a safety perspective I can see why trees are unsuitable in Stratford's CBD. They would compromise visual safety, and the NZ Transport Agency is very particular about the line of sight on SH3, especially when it goes through the main street of a town.
I also acknowledge the clinging ivy would hardly cost the council anything to trim and maintain - unlike the problematic alder trees in NP.
I know it's the nearing the end of winter (I recognise September 21 as the start of spring), but clinging ivy are not prepossessing.
My unsolicited suggestion, replace the ivy with 13 Grecian looking pots (either wrought iron or heavy pottery) with golf ball Pittosporums in them.
They are emerald green, thrive in the cold weather, are very easy to trim and shape, but most importantly, they look stunning.
But I suspect, this idea, like most of my suggestions will be filed in the bin.
And I'm sure people will smile, and say that "Bryan Vickery has too much time on his hand if he's counting trees."
- Bryan presents the Hokonui Breakfast Show every weekday morning. Listen to Hokonui in Stratford on 88.2FM