Man dies before seeing tree plan through
A man who was planning a ‘‘big event’’ for the removal of his family’s 138-year-old tree has died two weeks before it was felled.
Cattle and vineyard farmer Bryan Dodson died peacefully at Wellington Hospital on Thursday last week after a decline in health earlier this year.
The 66-year-old had hoped to see through the removal of a heritage eucalyptus tree which has sat on the Dodson’s Sandhills Estate property near State Highway 1 in Spring Creek for seven generations.
Sarah Wright, Dodson’s daughter, said the tree was first planted in about 1880 as a road guide for surveyors placing marker pegs, or boundary points, around the Marlborough region.
She said it had since become a memorable spot in the Spring Creek area, as ‘‘everyone knew the old gum tree’’, and it was visible for quite a distance.
Wright, who grew up on the Sandhills Estate homestead, said the 38-metre-high manna gum tree was also a strong reminder of home.
‘‘For Dad, its removal would have been quite a historic event,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s linked to the farm, it’s always been there.’’
The book Old Marlborough, published by Thomas Lindsay Buick in 1900, said Dodson’s great-great-grandfather George Dodson was the first farmer in Spring Creek.
Wright said that had her father lived, he would have invited over friends to watch the tree be felled, or stood in one of the paddocks for a nicer view.
Dodson’s wife Kathryn said he was hoping to turn it into a ‘‘big event’’.
‘‘He didn’t want the tree down ... but he knew it had to come down as it had died,’’ she said.
‘‘It would be nice if it had of survived, but there was not a lot of green left.’’
New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) top of the south system manager Frank Porter said the tree had shown a ‘‘significant decline’’ in health in recent times and had deteriorated at a rapid rate.
It was scheduled to be felled next week to prevent it from falling onto the nearby highway or footpath and endangering lives.
‘‘The demise and loss of such an iconic landmark of Marlborough’s history is regrettable, but the safety of road users is a priority,’’ Porter said.
Felling the tree would require a ‘‘full road closure’’ and cause a ‘‘substantial detour’’ in both directions around the streets of Blenheim on November 14.
During work, there would be a clearly marked detour for light vehicles, and a separate marked detour for heavy vehicles and freight travelling under permits.
Wright said once the tree was felled, family members would consider making an item out of the timber to commemorate Dodson, provided it was in good condition.
‘‘We could carve something into the leftover stump, depending on when or if we’re allowed,’’ she said.
‘‘But if we can’t, we might make a piece of furniture.’’
A funeral service was held for Dodson at the Ukaipo Rangitane Cultural Centre, in Grovetown, on Wednesday.
Preparations for the tree felling would take place next week on November 13.
Marlborough Heritage Trust executive director Steve Austin said while he was a great lover of old trees, people needed to accept there were ‘‘serious dangers’’ when they become a hazard.
He hoped the site would be marked by an information plaque in the future to inform people of its historical significance.
The Marlborough Regional Policy Statement required trees with ‘‘significant cultural or heritage value’’ to be retained for the continued benefit of the community.
More than 210 trees in the Marlborough region were listed as ‘heritage’ under the statement.
A Marlborough District Council spokesman said a heritage tree could be removed if the owner applied for a resource consent.
The 38-meter-high tree was planted in about 1880 as a road guide for surveyors.