I walk my dog Charlie through Keirunga Gardens almost on a daily basis and the area known as Arthur's Path offers a peaceful sanctuary through all four seasons.

In spring, the return of green leaves after the starkness of winter raises spirits in anticipation of long days, barbecues and holidays.

In summer, when temperatures can soar into the mid-30s, the canopy from the mature oaks offers welcome shade.

In autumn, the path is a joy to walk along, feet and paws rustling through a carpet of fallen leaves and in winter, when the trees are laid bare, you know it's time to light the fire and settle down with a good book.


It was with dismay when, last October, I learned about council's draft plant to cull over 100 mature trees in that area.

Over the years, I have communicated regularly with Hastings District Council's Parks and Reserves department complaining about neglect in the Havelock North reserves.

I had several Talking Points published in Hawke's Bay Today drawing attention to the weed-stricken state of Tainui, Tauroa and Keirunga.

Former mayor Lawrence Yule and his CEO both admitted publicly that council's care of the reserves was inadequate and promised better. Not unexpectedly, the neglect continued.

In August 2017, when I noticed that council contractors had pollarded (i.e. cut-back a tree so it is reduced to a short trunk) three of the oaks in Keirunga, I sent in photos to council protesting the eco-vandalism.

I was told that neighbours in Kopanga Rd had objected to leaves falling into their swimming pools.

Well, bad luck... the trees were there first. It got worse. After council cut back another tree, a neighbour took the matter into his own hands, hired someone who entered the reserve and cut the tree back even further.

This action lead to council discovering the same neighbour had drainage spilling into the reserve and he was ordered to remedy that.


While council gardeners do a good job around the homestead, managers have neglected the rest of the reserve.

Despite numerous requests to tidy the place up and eradicate the noxious ground cover such as wandering Jew and ivy, the place is a mess.

The weeds could be eliminated and replaced with native ground cover to help prevent soil erosion.

In its draft report, council states there has been, 'little pro-active tree management'.

That is a euphemism for the fact that council has totally neglected the trees and they have been regularly butchered.

My feedback to council, provided last December, is frank.


I pointed out that if council pandered to the whims of Kopanga Rd residents, that neighbours beside other reserves will want trees removed to improve their view (and house values).

I also stated that I thought that managers lacked the ability to implement the proposed radical cull of 100 trees or carry out future maintenance, basing that assertion on the history of neglect previously mentioned.

The neglect in Keirunga is on permanent display with basic maintenance continually deferred.

Through lack of follow-up care, the little watercourse which council put limestone rocks in to prevent erosion fills with debris and then floods over the path; the weeds proliferate; the ground is littered with trunks and branches large and small from fallen trees, the detritus becoming a Health and Safety issue and the grass can grow up to a metre high before complaints from the public eventually gets some action.

While I have no objection to any tree being removed if it is diseased or dangerous, I say, let the oaks in Keirunga have their day, care for them and let nature take its course.

After all, as I put in my feedback, you don't go into a rest home and euthanise everybody just because they are 80 years old.

* Jessica Maxwell lives in Havelock North and is a concerned ratepayer.