UFB threat to cherry trees

Contractors installing ultra-fast broadband cables in Blenheim may have damaged the flowering cherry trees in several streets, the Marlborough District Council says.

In an information pack given to assets and services committee members at the committee's October meeting, reserves and amenities staff told councillors that earthworks were causing root damage to trees. "This is occurring through drilling, excavation, and trenching. Although we are in communication with Transfield and contractors, and have conveyed our concerns, tree welfare and health is being compromised, particularly where trenching is being used as they move south to Witherlea."

Staff said in the pack that "a way forward that met all parties' needs" was being negotiated.

Another problem was the increasingly crowded road berms.

"With ultra-fast broadband ducting going into road berms throughout Blenheim, and many berms already full of services, this additional cabling is now preventing street tree planting in many streets due to inadequate planting space. With cabling being drilled under many existing trees, replanting of trees may be more difficult or compromised in the future."

Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler said on Friday that about 40 trees could be damaged. He said trees on Wither Rd were of particular note. Other streets with issues included Alabama Rd and Battys Rd.

There were ways of drilling the ground to lay the cables that minimised the risk to the trees, Mr Wheeler said.

"There are ways of drilling with it: how close to the drip line of the tree you drill, how deep you are. They're the main ones."

Most of Blenheim had now been drilled, he said, and at that depth, the work was not going to cause problems. "The trenching is more of an issue, because it's shallow."

Mr Wheeler said there were about 40 trees on some streets potentially affected, because of the trenching work.

"That's out of 5000 in Blenheim. Hopefully we can avoid a large scale issue."

It wasn't clear yet whether the trees were damaged yet, he said. "They may be fine . . . it could be only a small number . . . affected. We won't be able to tell for a while."

Mr Wheeler said the contractors had accepted responsibility to replace any trees that are damaged over the next two years.

"The council will be monitoring, and the contractor has accepted that there are ways of doing it properly, and that will minimise any risks."

He said that probably 50 per cent of the work to install ultra-fast broadband had been done in Blenheim.

Cherries were the most common trees on Blenheim berms, he said.

The Marlborough Express