Attacks may seal heritage pine's fate

The family fighting to get a heritage tree removed from their property say they are not responsible for the attacks on it and are co-operating with the council in its attempts to try to save it.

The protected norfolk pine, at Box Hill, Khandallah, has been attacked three times in the past two weeks and its chances of survival are now slim.

The tree is on a property owned by Grant and Julia Jefferson, who live in the Middle East. Their daughter Laura and her husband, Richard Flannigan, occupy the house but are overseas on holiday.

The families had been trying to get the tree removed since September after it started shedding cones and branches, preventing the Flannigans' young children from playing in the front yard.

They lodged a resource consent application for its removal but the application was declined in December.

They have since lodged an appeal in the Environment Court. The process has cost them more than $31,000 so far.

Despite their desire to see the tree removed, Mr Jefferson said they had not, in any way, been involved in the attacks. "While we do wish to have the tree removed from our property, we have been working through the consenting process to seek to achieve this outcome," he said.

His family had co-operated with Wellington City Council in its attempts to save the tree "irrespective of our personal opinions as to the merits of the tree".

The tree was first damaged on the evening of Monday, January 31, when its circumference was ring-barked by axe-wielding men wearing high-visibility vests like official workers.

Council staff took bark from the tree's lower limbs to patch the wound in the horticultural equivalent of a skin graft. It was bandaged in place around the trunk.

But on Thursday night or early Friday morning that week, the bandage and most of the relocated bark were stripped from the tree. The council rebandaged the tree but it was attacked again on the Sunday night with an axe.

Parks and gardens manager Paul Andrews said the attacks were extremely disappointing and would probably spell the end of the historic tree.

"They have been quite determined attacks by someone who is clearly determined to make sure anything we are doing to try and save this tree isn't successful.

"They did the maximum amount of damage in the shortest period of time. It means the tree's chances of survival aren't great."

Mr Andrews said police had been notified and, if the culprits were caught, they faced up to three months in jail and fines of up to $300,000.

The Dominion Post