The hacking of a few much-loved walnut trees next to an orchard has rankled many.

Havelock North locals objected last week when corporate grower Bostock New Zealand "heavily pruned" the trees on public land that had provided folk with fruit for 40 years.

Going by the photos, "hacking" is the more accurate.

Citing biosecurity risks to the orchard, specifically that walnuts are a favourite host for codlin moth, the grower said it had been given the green light by Hawke's Bay Regional Council.


Read more: Havelock North residents claim mature walnut trees 'vandalised'

However, a council spokesperson told Hawke's Bay Today this wasn't accurate - that permission hadn't been sought, let alone granted.

Chairman Rex Graham then overrode his own council's statement to claim there had been "some confusion in the communication".

Among other things, he pointed out "walnut trees are not good for organic orchards".

For the sake of perspective let's remember there are only a few walnut trees in question, and they're neither native nor protected.

Let's also remember the council is currently juggling issues far weightier than this.

I'll also throw in that I'm a big fan of brand Bostock; it's innovative, trail-blazing and, best of all, organic.

But being organic (and hence more vulnerable to pestilence) shouldn't mean we lower the threshold for garroting mature, nut-yielding, public amenities on public land.

Should an orchard's organic or otherwise status be material to council's decision?

Even if due diligence was followed there'll always be a natural community outcry when private enterprise trumps public fare - in this case, where fruit precludes the nut.

A follow up statement from council yesterday only added confusion: "It appears Bostock NZ was under the impression it had permission to fell these trees. Regional Council staff believe they did not give such permission".

Steven Joyce's ambivalent political line, "we think it's pretty legal", springs to mind.

If this trio of walnuts posed an identifiable hazard then the law of nuisance places emphasis on the trees' owner - the public, who have instead been blindsided by Walnutgate.

The take-home message from council's internal gaffe - and the lingering confusion between it and Bostock - suggests a shonky process.