Motorised blockade of arborists earns 'icon' hedge some time before date with clippers
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 owner-commissioned 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. "Safety, shm-afety."
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.