A century-old tree that has weathered many a Te Teko storm and filtered about 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide during its lifetime has been saved from being reduced to sawdust.

The pin oak (Quercus palustris) is 30m tall with a branch span of 24m.

Owners of the tree had concerns about leaf debris, shading and damage to surrounding property so asked an arborist for help.

"They [the owners] bought up removal with me but I strongly opposed the idea," ash and oak arborist Asher Bowyer said.


"At 100-plus years old, the oak would have outlived the people of Te Teko," Bowyer said.

"It has been there since the township was settled as a small community.

"I think it's quite something when you start to think about, and appreciate, the time associated with the existence of this tree and the events it has endured. Cyclone Bola, Cyclone Debbie, Cyclone Cook, countless extreme rain events and the Edgecumbe earthquake have not been able to diminish the tree."

Bowyer said a tree was often seen as a just piece of wood in the ground with some leaves on it, but argued it was far more than that.

Arborists work to reduce Te Teko's oak tree by 25 per cent. Photo / supplied
Arborists work to reduce Te Teko's oak tree by 25 per cent. Photo / supplied

"A tree is an ecosystem supporting insects, animals, birds and fungi. They perform many ecosystem services from ground stabilisation, to water storage, to air filtering.

"On average a deciduous tree will absorb and store in its cells approximately 250kg of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases every year and can filter approximately 5000 litres of water a day depending on its environment.

"Meaning this tree in Te Teko could have filtered approximately 2.5 tonne-plus, of carbon dioxide and over 180 million litres of water over its life. Removing large trees not only stops them from performing these ecosystem services, but depending on how it is processed the stored carbon dioxide can be released back in to the atmosphere."

Bowyer suggested the tree be reduced by 20 to 25 per cent to minimise the risk of failure, increase light and reduce leaf debris.


The Alfa Charitable Trust, a charity for trees, people and the environment formed by Bowyer, Kathleen Grassby and Joe Newdick early this year, worked with the oak's owners, agreeing to do a free reduction and install a synthetic bracing system in exchange for a convent protecting it.

"At that stage, we weren't quite sure how we were going to do that. Then Scott Forrest, one of the world's elite arborists and tree climbers, came on board. Scott is from Kawerau and has won the world record tree climbing comps four times.

"We decided to organise a volunteer day to get as many arborists together from around the country to do this in the name of retaining and managing a significant tree. It was also an opportunity for any young aspiring arborists to come and climb with one of the country's best in a work-like situation.

"Andy Neverman also joined the cause. Andy is a local arborist who is internationally recognised for his skills and efforts in the industry as a trainer. From then on through the power of social media we gained a solid following and support for the idea."

On Saturday the arborists and tree climbers gathered to save Te Teko's mighty oak.

"The day was a real success with 10 professional arborists in the tree at once all working together to achieve the same common goal and end result. A resident in Te Teko commented that the tree didn't look any different until he saw the pile of brush on the ground which, for us, is a perfect result."

An estimated 10 cubic metres of chip was processed from the removed branches.