Council crew on a 'firewood' mission

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:58 19/06/2014
Bhutanese refugees
HELEN MURDOCH
TIMBER TROUBLE: Is the Tasman District Council tree-felling programme on the Motueka Valley Road for driver safety or firewood?

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Motueka Valley residents say a council-contracted tree-felling contract is more like a ratepayer-funded firewood gathering exercise than a planned removal programme.

Over recent weeks, Tasman District Council contractors have been felling wilding trees growing on the valley's roadside to improve driver visibility, reduce the risk of trees falling onto the road and lessen the danger of ice on winter-dark corners.

The job appears sporadic, with some areas of roadside bush removed and others left standing, and messy - with the left-over limbs pushed into the already thick verge of weeds.

Long-time resident Kerry Hall said he had never seen such a tree-felling programme.

"It's been more of a firewood gathering exercise than anything that makes any sense. A week and a half after they did the piece from Thorpe to Dovedale, a tree fell over the road. Trees that should have gone have been left and others that were safe have gone - even some gums."

"When they did our farm I told them to throw anything on our boundary over the fence, but around the corner they took it all away.

"They certainly haven't done anything to beautify the valley," he said.

Another resident, Stephen McCarthy, said the crew had cut down every wattle, known as a good firewood, that could be reached.

"Even the ones that were not even near the road or obscuring visibility. Some of the trees needed to come down, but they have taken out trees 20 metres from the road that just happened to be firewood trees. I've watched them cutting the lengths into firewood rounds on the job."

Tasman ratepayers were effectively paying a firewood crew, he said.

"They should have called in the locals, we would have done it for free," McCarthy said.

Paul Milsom said it had been good to see the roadside crack willows felled, and a lot of wood was dumped at McLeans Reserve where locals had been cutting it up for firewood.

But the crew seemed to specifically target big wattle trees.

Council spokesman Chris Choat said the crew had been targeting pine, willow and wattle trees growing on the road verge on both sides of the Motueka Valley Rd.

The timber has been removed by the crew or left for the locals to cut up for firewood. It was a regular maintenance programme and had also taken place on the West Bank Rd.

The felled crack willow, deemed by the council to be a pest plant and a focus of its river care programme, would be sprayed when it re-grew in spring, he said.

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The work was part of a $1 million district-wide road maintenance contract, he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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