Wild over council clearing site

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:00 08/01/2014
Christopher Cape
FAITH SUTHERLAND/Fairfax NZ

SCORCHED EARTH: The view from Christopher Cape's fence used to be wild but now it's predominantly dirt.

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Feilding toymaker and nature enthusiast Christopher Cape and his cat quite liked the "wild" scenery behind his home at 36 Lethbridge St.

So when contractors for the Manawatu District Council turned up in the new year with trucks and chainsaws and began a wholesale clearance of the willows and wattles, gorse and blackberry, Mr Cape did what he feels was right.

He protested.

Manawatu District Council parks and property manager Shannon Quirke said the work in the Lethbridge St reserve was necessary to prevent flooding of Feilding's urban stormwater network.

The reserve had been a problem area for a long time and the council had a responsibility to keep the stormwater drain, which flows into the Makino Stream, clear of vegetation.

When the contractors went to take down the 40-year-old wattle from beside Mr Cape's property, he complained.

As a result, the council had decided to compromise and let the wattle stay, with an arborist being brought in instead of a contractor to remove any problem branches on it, Ms Quirke said.

Mr Cape was the only one who had complained about the work taking place. Some neighbours specifically asked for the wattles to come down because of asthma concerns, Ms Quirke said.

"All the other neighbours were more than happy for the vegetation to go - for them it was an eyesore - the gorse and blackberry had been left to run amok and we'd had complaints about the danger of overhanging branches from some of the more established trees," Ms Quirke said. Cabbage trees growing in the reserve would remain and grass and other smaller, native trees would be planted along the drain, she said.

Magnolia, copper beech, kahikatea, alder, red ash, lemonwood, kohuhu and kowhai were all being considered, with the options to be discussed with affected residents. There was also the option of fruit trees as suggested by some of the local children.

The clearing of the site would also mean there would be an easy walkway from Lethbridge St to Stonebridge Heights, Ms Quirke said.

But Mr Cape remains angry that the grey warblers and other birds that keep him and his cat entertained now have few trees in the reserve to visit.

The wholesale scale of the work was "unintelligent" and the lack of consultation with him was "disgraceful", he said.

"What they have done here is ecologically, bureaucratically, economically and psychologically wrong.

"My cat has been hiding under the bed regularly since the machines turned up."

Mr Cape takes some comfort in the fact the council has left the wattle alone, but is contemplating leaving the town in disgust at having to wait years for trees to re-establish themselves before he can again see "the wild" from his backyard.

"You can call me a rampant environmentalist if you like but I live my life by a few quotes and one of them is Edmund Burke: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'.

"If I had let them go, they would have bowled the lot."

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- Manawatu Standard

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