Domain trees at risk
More care for Auckland Domain’s ageing oak trees is being called for after three separate incidents saw falling branches damage unoccupied cars.
Auckland Council is looking at removing up to six oak trees in the area and will significantly prune back others as a precautionary measure.
The latest case was February 19 on the southern side of the domain’s grandstand.
It was the second time branches had fallen in this area.
An oak tree suffered a split on a main trunk, sending a 15-metre branch and a large amount of the tree’s canopy on to four parked cars below.
Tree Council chairman and arborist Sean Freeman says branch stability is directly related to a tree’s health.
Freeman has not inspected the trees but says ‘‘in my experience it is never a good idea to permit car parking directly on top of unprotected tree roots’’.
Council manager for local and sports parks central Jane Aickin says the other two incidents happened on July 5 and September 7 last year.
After the second case, Aickin says an investigation was carried out including visual assessments and soil tests of 206 oak trees of concern.
Aickin says tests found the February incident was associated with internal decay in the tree.
Freeman says council staff have investigated appropriately but more protection should be afforded to the trees instead of waiting for them to fail.
The Domain’s trees are part of the city’s heritage and deserve ‘‘greater care and respect than to be threatened with removal in order to facilitate additional car parking spaces’’.
Freeman cites the saving of the Western Springs pohutukawa trees last month as an example of the value residents place on trees over cars.
‘‘It is a sad fact that when it comes to trees in our city, the basic requirements for health and stability have been misunderstood or ignored for much too long,’’ he says.
‘‘This can, and does, lead to increased stress, declining health and in the worst case major failures.’’
Many of the oak trees in the Domain are approaching 150 years of age.
Aickin says the cautionary work of pruning and regular monitoring should ensure visitors of the Domain remain safe.
‘‘The Auckland Domain is home to a very significant arboretum of exotic and native mature trees.
‘‘Given the age and significance of the tree stock in Auckland Domain a very regular inspection and pruning cycle is undertaken,’’ he says.
‘‘The string of recent incidents has led us to adopt a more cautionary approach which includes severe pruning, some removal, regular monitoring and changes in car parking are being contemplated.
‘‘So visitors should not need to change their behaviours.’’
A management plan is being looked at which will take into consideration the age and stock of trees in the Domain.
In the longer term a plan for replacement tree planting will be provided, Aickin says.
Forest giants: Auckland Domain is home to hundreds of oak trees, similar to the one pictured.