Car cor­don de­fends hedge

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

‘‘I had a few words with the cone man’’

For­get sit-in protests. On the Kapiti Coast they do park-ins.

The gi­ant macro­carpa hedge at the cen­tre of a bat­tle at Waikanae Beach, north of Welling­ton, has dodged a trim af­ter its own­ers scram­bled a mo­torised cor­don across its trunks.

The 80 year old hedge – 7 me­tres high, and as wide as a bus – was set to have a cor­ri­dor cut along its base on Fri­day af­ter a dis­pute over traf­fic safety be­tween its own­ers and Kapiti Coast Dis­trict Coun­cil.

The coun­cil says it’s now look­ing at the find­ings of a new own­er­com­mis­sioned re­port on the hedge – but traf­fic safety was paramount.

On Fri­day, owner Vince Os­borne said his fam­ily were shocked to dis­cover traf­fic cones across the hedge at about 7am.

‘‘I had a few words with the cone man, and he said the tree guys were turn­ing up at 8am, and that was it.’’

They whisked their own fam­ily cars out in front of the hedge, and called sup­port­ers who filled out the re­main­der of the spa­ces.

‘‘We just plonked th­ese cars in front, oth­er­wise they would’ve been into it.’’

It stopped the planned cut in its tracks and drew about a dozen sup­port­ers to the scene.

He said he wanted the coun­cil to con­sider a new re­port that he com­mis­sioned on traf­fic safety around the hedge, be­fore it started cut­ting.

The Os­bornes just got the com­pleted re­port and said they were at­tempt­ing to set up a meet­ing to dis­cuss it this week but were as­sured the hedge would not be trimmed till next week.

In Jan­uary, the Os­borne fam­ily were or­dered by the coun­cil to cut the hedge’s en­tire road­side frontage af­ter neigh­bour­hood com­plaints about road safety. Os­borne’s grand­fa­ther planted the gi­ant, sculpted plant­ing in the 1930s. His work on a com­pro­mise, cut­ting a cor­ri­dor along the bot­tom of the hedge, started and stopped in late March. This month the coun­cil an­nounced it would fin­ish the job.

Out­side the Os­borne home on Fri­day was Waikanae woman Pe­tra Areg­ger, who said she loved the hedge, an ‘‘icon’’ on the way to Waikanae Beach.

When she found out about the planned trim on Fri­day she jumped in her car and drove to the Os­bornes, and was pre­pared to park up if needed.

‘‘I think it’s wrong, I don’t think our elected coun­cil should be be­hav­ing in this way.’’

She said the hedge had been there for 80 years and ques­tioned why it was sud­denly a safety is­sue.

On Fri­day coun­cil in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices group man­ager Sean Mal­lon con­firmed the park-in halted the cut, and the con­trac­tor was sent away. ‘‘We’re not in­ter­ested in putting any­one at risk, or forc­ing the is­sue.’’

He said the coun­cil would not res­tart the work be­fore he had a chance to look at the Os­bornes’ traf­fic safety re­port.

Mal­lon would not rule out changes to the planned work, in­clud­ing less or no trim­ming, but said he was still yet to read the re­port in de­tail.

The re­port dis­putes as­pects of the coun­cil’s own find­ings, par­tic­u­larly around the cause of three ve­hi­cle col­li­sions in the area since 2000.

Mal­lon said he had never told the Os­bornes the coun­cil would wait for the re­port be­fore start­ing the trim, and in the end, traf­fic safety was paramount.

Traf­fic vol­ume was ex­pected to spike along Te Moana Rd since the $630 mil­lion Kapiti ex­press­way had opened with an in­ter­change a few hun­dred me­tres away, he said.

Kapiti mayor K Gu­runathan said there was no doubt the hedge was a ‘‘mag­nif­i­cent’’ spec­i­men but hu­man safety was the coun­cil’s first con­cern, the hedge its sec­ond.

‘‘You can say there’s a low prob­a­bil­ity of some­thing hap­pen­ing there, but the im­pact would be high.’’

He said he did not want ‘‘blood on my hands’’ for the sake of the hedge.

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