Plea for tree is too late

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

NEIGH­BOURS are an­gry city of­fi­cials al­lowed a ma­ture oak tree to be cut down de­spite re­ceiv­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for it to be pro­tected seven months ear­lier.

Mt Roskill res­i­dent So­phie Bri­bi­esca ap­plied to have the 10- me­tre oak on her neigh­bour’s prop­erty sched­uled in Fe­bru­ary, along with sev­eral oth­ers in K ey­stone Ave.

She was hor­ri­fied when her neigh­bour told her on Septem­ber 6 that four trees were to be felled, two oaks, a karaka tree, and a nox­ious mon­key ap­ple tree.

Ms Bri­bi­esca con­tacted the coun­cil and was told her ap­pli­ca­tion had been re­ceived, but not yet con­sid­ered.

“ It was too late, they had granted con­sent,” she says.

Ms Bri­bi­esca thought there would be a stay of ex­e­cu­tion un­til her ap­pli­ca­tion was looked at, but within six days the trees had been chopped down.

“ I feel like it’s gone from a quiet, tran­quil park set­ting to a war zone and a rub­bish tip. It’s caused havoc with the neigh­bours.”

The coun­cil did not re­spond to ques­tions from the Cen­tral Leader about the ap­pli­ca­tion and con­sent by the time of go­ing to print.

But an in­ter­nal memo be­tween coun­cil staff sent to Ms Bri­bi­esca says propos­ing an item for sched­ul­ing does not guar­an­tee it will be given pro­tec­tion.

“ It is re­gret­table that Ms Bri­bi­esca re­ceived an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the pro­posal so late af­ter send­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion,” the memo says.

“ This is one of the rea­sons for which a cur­rent re­view of the pro­posal process and pro­to­col is be­ing un­der­taken by the her­itage team.”

Prop­erty owner Julie Hart says she had the trees felled be­cause the two oaks were sim­ply get­ting too big, and the karaka had self- seeded and should have been re­moved ear­lier.

She had planned to keep the smaller oak, but was ad­vised not to by an ar­borist.

“ We were ad­vised it wasn’t worth keep­ing. It was all grow­ing out to one side, it had borer in it and it wasn’t go­ing to sur­vive.”

She was not aware Ms Bri­bi­esca had ap­plied to sched­ule the larger tree un­til the Thurs­day when it was chopped down.

The re­source con­sent re­quires Ms Hart to plant two kowhai trees, one lemon­wood tree and three shrubs in the next plant­ing sea­son.

“ We wanted to do it to im­prove the house and prop­erty. It will make the house health­ier, there were leaves and acorns ev­ery­where and it was damp.”

She says other neigh­bours have sup­ported the move.

Tree Coun­cil field of­fi­cer Hue­line Massey says she is not sur­prised by the sit­u­a­tion.

“ It’s in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing that the coun­cil wasn’t awake to the fact that it should have been sig­nalled on their records as hav­ing pos­si­ble sched­uled sta­tus put on it.”

She says the coun­cil de­vel­op­ing a process for sched­ul­ing her­itage items is “ huge progress” and will help re­solve is­sues like this one.

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