A Ruakākā resident has started a petition to stop Whangārei District Council putting up a seawall outside his property as several pōhutukawa trees might be removed.
Simon Ellison has been living on Princes Rd facing the Ruakākā River estuary for 36 years and is concerned that council's recent plan to install a seawall along the waterfront of the street will mean that the six pōhutukawa trees growing close to the water's edge will be destroyed.
The seawall is designed to stop the erosion of the green space and protect the road that gets flooded regularly but Ellison doesn't believe a wall would be necessary.
"The road is flood-prone, and erosion factors in but the reefs and pōhutukawa are holding the bank together," he explained.
"The council have pōhutukawa as their iconic branding, but now they want to get rid of it."
If built, the seawall would have an impact on the ground level and expose the trunks of the trees to water and they would eventually rot.
With the help of an arborist, WDC is currently looking at options to move and replant the trees.
"The new ground level will impact on the trees hence our desire to move and or replace trees," Sue Hodge, manager of council's Parks and Recreation department, said.
"We are working with an arborist to see if there is a methodology that might work. If we don't do anything, four trees will most likely die as they are being impacted by the seawater that washes over the existing back and then sits there around the trees."
Trees on public roads are generally protected under the council's District Plan so the Parks and Recreation department would have to lodge a resource consent application to shift the trees.
Hodge said she had been holding off the construction works for about year in an effort to save the trees and is still gathering information.
She said the arborist didn't believe shifting the trees would work and council should alternatively look at planting new trees.
But the trees aren't Ellison's only concern. He said Princes Rd was a popular swimming spot for locals and the proposed wall would obstruct access to the waterfront.
He owns a kayak renting business and said it would difficult to launch kayaks with the seawall in the way.
Hodge said there would be public access with a ramp and double-width step where people could safely sit.
The wall itself would be built along the high-tide mark, below the elevated grass area where people tend to sit and walk along.
The wall height would vary, but Hodge said it would only be slightly higher than the grass level.
At its highest, when viewed from the ocean, the wall will be 1.6m high; and 340m long. The level of the existing road reserve will be raised by a maximum of 600mm above road level.
For Princes Rd resident Janis Martin the seawall would be a welcome feature. She has been living along the road for 29 years and said a lot of the grass area close to the water's edge had eroded over the years.
"You can't leave the bank as it is, it's ridiculous – even if it means that they have to move or remove the trees."
She said council had done a good job consulting with the community and explaining the procedure.
Another resident, Keith Clapham, agreed: "We need a seawall. I'm not worried about access to the water. If there's a stone in my way, I step over it."
Ellison's online petition has gained 243 signatures, however, if everything goes to plan, council is looking at starting construction works in April, after the bird breeding season is over.
Northland Regional Council have already granted consent and the Department of Conservation, which is looking after the local wildlife, has consented to the construction of the seawall with some conditions.