Anger over 'ethnic cleansing' of natives

Council's actions labeled 'eco-terrorism'

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2013
David Blomfield
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

GREEN FINGERS: Waikanae resident David Blomfield is surrounded by native trees he has planted beside the Waikanae River. The Kapiti Coast District Council wants to remove some of them, including the puka, front right, which is deemed non-local.

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Waikanae residents who have spent nearly 20 years planting native plants along riverbanks are livid the Kapiti Coast District Council has started ripping them out.

The groups of retirees propagate and plant about 3000 plants a year along the Waikanae River.

David Blomfield, 86, started growing native plants in a small nursery on the riverbank 18 years ago.

He and other Friends of Waikanae River Group are horrified council staff have removed 50 native renga renga lilies and 2-metre-high puriri planted along the riverbank.

Mr Blomfield received a letter from council chief executive Pat Dougherty last month, stressing the council now approved of only locally "eco-sourced" seeds and that renga renga lilies, as well as three other native species - puriri, puka and brachyglotis - were not believed to have been originally on river corridor land.

A letter from a council staff member told Mr Blomfield that more non-locally sourced natives planted by the group along the riverbank would also be removed.

"It is bloody rubbish, eco-mania," Mr Blomfield said. "We just want to beautify the riverbank with natives. Renga renga lilies and puriri are natives that flower profusely and attract native birds.

"I have not spoken to anyone who agrees with what they are doing. They all think it is stupid."

Other members, one about to turn 90, described the council's action as "eco-terrorism" and "botanical ethnic cleansing".

Kapiti Greater Wellington regional councillor Nigel Wilson said the Friends group "sweated blood" planting the natives and now the council was pulling them out "because of this eco-purist philosophy".

As a result, Friends members wanted to pull out of the group.

Council spokesman Lex Bartlett said the river corridor was deemed a restoration site which, according to council policy, should now be planted only with species native to the Foxton Ecological District.

Council staff had removed clumps of renga renga lilies as well as puriri and puka planted by the group.

The plants had been reused in other council locations. "The purpose was to retain the integrity of the Waikanae River, which is an ecological corridor."

The policy was a joint regional and district council initiative regarding restoration sites, Mr Bartlett said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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