Birches seen as health hazard

Silver birch trees in Marlborough may face the chop after a precedent-setting decision to allow a Canterbury man to cut down two of the trees on council land as they are a health hazard to his family.

The decision by the Christchurch City Council to allow Crusaders boss Hamish Riach to have the two trees removed and replaced, at his own cost, came after a four-year battle. He says that the trees make three members of his family unwell.

Scientists have linked silver birch trees to lip swelling, nausea, wheezing, vomiting and hay fever. The trees are common in Marlborough but according to Marlborough District Council reserves-amenities officer Robin Dunn the council does not plant the trees as it is aware of the health problems they can cause.

"They also grow too big for planting on the sidewalk so we use lower growing varieties. Another problem is that they seed prolifically and can be difficult to control," he said.

However, the council had planted small numbers of silver birch in the past, and if a resident needed one on council land removed for health reasons they would assist. "Absolutely, we would have no problem working with anyone whose health was suffering," Mr Dunn said.

Silver birch trees were very popular garden trees in Marlborough in the past.

The Christchurch City Council has stopped planting silver birches, while Nelson City Council no longer planted silver birches and Dunedin City Council "avoided" planting them.

The Marlborough Express