Late plea to save tree

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 07:42 25/01/2013
Paula Tait
Jared Nicoll
Tree-lover: Paula Tait in front of the big old douglas fir tree in Picton.

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A Picton woman is fighting for the life of a tree.

Horticulture student Paula Tait was so surprised no-one had fought the axing of a huge douglas fir in central Picton, she started a petition to take to the council.

She collected more than 170 signatures of support to save the tree, taking a petition to the streets of Picton each afternoon from last Monday. She planned to present it to the Marlborough District Council today.

Miss Tait read about the council's decision to approve the Picton Seaport Trust's application for permission to cut down a giant douglas fir tree at the carpark near the Picton Power House Maritime Heritage Reserve site on Wairau Road in the Marlborough Express last month.

The trust requested the removal of the tree in September because its falling cones created a mess, its leaves blocked nearby drains and gutters and its roots were undermining the riverbank it grows from. The massive tree also blocked light from the trust's office and the trust claimed the problems and danger it posed would only get worse as it grew over time.

The Marlborough Express article prompted her to start a petition.

"I've driven past that tree every day, and do you ever just go past something and it makes you smile? It would just be such a shame to see it go.

"People say, ‘oh, it's just a big old tree and it's not even a native', but so what? If it's rotten or dead then chop it down, but not just because it's an inconvenience."

She contacted the council and the staff were "very friendly" when she inquired about the future of the tree but were unable to tell her when it would be removed.

She began collecting signatures at the Picton foreshore to draw support to save the tree on Monday afternoon and had 80 by the end of the day. She had collected more than 170 by Thursday afternoon and would have looked for more if she knew how much time she had.

Miss Tait was surprised to read the council received no opposing submissions on the tree's removal as part of its public notification period.

She believed this was because not enough people were aware of it.

She said she missed the council's public notification process and would have made a submission against the removal of the tree.

"Half of the people don't even know it's due to be cut down, and only one person told me they had seen the council's ad asking for submissions.

"I've never done this kind of thing before, I'm just a local girl who thought she should do something.

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"If I lose, I lose, but I want to give it a good shot."

Picton Power House Maritime Heritage Reserve project manager Carey White said the Picton Seaport Trust requested permission to remove the 20-year-old tree because its leaves blocked nearby drains and gutters and its roots were undermining the riverbank.

"It's been going on for nearly a year, it's gone through the council process and the trust is happy with the decision [to remove the tree]."

In December, Marlborough District Council deputy mayor Jenny Andrews and councillors Peter Jerram and Jessica Bagge unsuccessfully tried to save the tree on behalf of the council's landscape committee.

- The Marlborough Express

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