Demise of oak trees slated by gardens supporter
The removal of two trees outside the Suter Art gallery has been called a "tragic and unnecessary" waste by a supporter of the Queen's Gardens.
Contractors started to cut down the trees yesterday afternoon without giving any public warning they were about to be felled.
The century-old trees were the focus of a long public debate about whether they should stay or go.
Authorities and the gallery said no public notice was legally needed before contractors started work.
Neither the Nelson City Council nor the gallery was trying to hide anything, representatives said.
The fate of the trees was sealed by the city council's recent decision to support the gallery's multimillion-dollar redevelopment through the recent long-term plan process.
This meant that the trees would need to come down for the required building work to proceed.
City council policy and planning manager Nicky McDonald said the trees had local status in the council's district plan and were on the gallery's land, which meant that their removal was a permitted activity.
There was no requirement to give public notice of when they would be removed, after it was made clear by the council's recent decision that the trees would be coming down, she said.
The Suter trust board gave the council a week's notice that the removal of the trees was to proceed, the council noted it and the job got under way.
"There was a lot of consultation around this through the LTP and the council stated its position.
"We're not trying to hide anything," Ms McDonald said.
The Queen's Gardens Preservation Society, which strongly opposed the trees' removal, felt the trees were an "essential part of the Queen's Gardens woodlands".
Society spokeswoman Ellen Brinkman said the destruction of the trees was a "tragic and unnecessary waste", but the Suter had been "hell-bent" on getting them out for years.
She was not surprised it had happened without warning.
"The Suter doesn't seem to be particularly interested in their role of being part of the Queen's Gardens," Ms Brinkman said.
There was mixed public reaction when it was noted yesterday that contractors had started to cut down the trees. "Tahuna Ted" wrote: "The council can do things when it wants. Well done. Compare this with the fiasco over the dangerous dog attack on [Tahunanui] Back Beach, which caused them ongoing handwringing and numerous appeals before it can [sic] be destroyed."
"Warren" wrote: "A great and timely decision at last. Sagas like this one result in stumping (pun intended) the growth of Nelson. It is time to progress and move on."
"Jock" wrote: "If they are rubbing up against buildings, blocking out sunlight, ripping up drains or foundations, they've got to go."
The trees are on land owned by the Suter, a council-controlled organisation that borders historic Queen's Gardens.
Suter trust board chairman Craig Potton said because the process had already been made public, it would have been "extraordinary" to give further notice.
The fact they had not said when the trees were coming down had nothing to do with attempts to avoid confrontation, he said.
"Their fate was sealed when the council agreed to the Suter redevelopment.
"When they would be removed became a technical question after that," Mr Potton said.
The council recently agreed to allocate $6.6 million for the Suter project after an upgrade plan was launched more than a decade ago.
Suter director Julie Catchpole said the board had "long been worried" about the effects of the trees on the Suter's building.
Mr Potton said they had tried in 2010 to have the very large oak next to the theatre removed because of maintenance and public safety concerns.
"The damage that could be caused by even parts of one of these trees falling would be as great as a structural collapse, given that the trees' limbs are across busy parts of the Suter, such as the theatre and very popular cafe," Mr Potton said.
Ms Catchpole said in order for the revamped gallery to have minimal visual impact on the Queen's Gardens, there had to be a compromise.
"That compromise is having a gallery low in height on the garden side, but having to remove the oak trees to accommodate toilets and the cafe so we can achieve one floor level throughout the building," she said.
Issues around the trees meant it had not been an easy decision.
However, arborists planned to save the best of the trees' timber.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with the Nelson City Council's decision to relax rules on freedom camping in the city?Related story: (See story)