Chainsaws rip on World Environment Day

SHADE SHOCKER: pedestrians circle the stump of a tree in City Mall yesterday.
SHADE SHOCKER: pedestrians circle the stump of a tree in City Mall yesterday.

The buzz of a chainsaw ushered in World Environment Day and Arbor Day in central Christchurch yesterday as six trees were felled in what officials admitted was a "terrible" coincidence.

The Christchurch City Council removed six mature trees from City Mall on a global day earmarked for planting trees and promoting environmental protection.

The felling provoked dismay among members of the public, with one onlooker saying it made a mockery of the city's attempts to embrace environmental awareness.

The council said up to 10 trees in the Cashel Street West section of the mall were being removed, and more trees will go from near the Hack Circle, although not the large tree directly outside Hallensteins.

The council said one of the trees removed was in declining health while others had to make way for a controversial service lane as part of the $10.5 million mall redevelopment. Some trees were also being replaced with "more appropriate species".

The council said up to 18 new trees would be planted, mainly a variety of maple.

Christchurch resident Taylor Maxwell said the council had "murdered" the city's heritage.

"As a city that is known as the Garden City, we have that image to uphold. This makes a mockery of `let's be aware of the environment and let's walk or cycle to work'."

Other workers in the area said they felt cheated because they used the area as a source of shade during their lunch break.

A vocal opponent of the council's City Mall redevelopment, Spreydon-Heathcote Community Board member Paul de Spa, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the council's actions.

"This typifies the council's whole attitude to this project," he said. "The public clearly wanted to keep the trees and did not want the road but the council have ignored that. It is disappointing that they have done this on a day when we are meant to be recognising the importance of the environment."

Project City Mall project director Sean Whitaker said the timing of the removal was an unfortunate oversight and a terrible coincidence.

The council had an overwhelmingly positive response to the project, and he encouraged people to focus on the long-term benefits.

Removal of the trees would open up the mall and create a better view of the Bridge of Remembrance, creating the aesthetic of a world-class street.

The Press