Domain trees at risk

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE

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.

Photo: DAVID HAL­LETT

For­est gi­ants: Auck­land Domain is home to hun­dreds of oak trees, sim­i­lar to the one pic­tured.

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