A commemorative oak tree planted 119 years ago in Clinton has been chopped down, leaving some residents complaining they did not know it was going.
The tree on the corner of State Highways 1 and 93 was removed by council contractors last week after an inspection by an independent arborist in April.
David Glenn described it as a small oak in poor condition.
He said the tree's root system had "seriously declined" and it was in a "stressful location", which exposed it to wind funnelling along the main street.
The report also noted the oak was reportedly hit by lightning, which can cook the tree from the inside out and cause dieback.
Limited soil along with tree roots covered in grass also restricted water to the tree.
The arborist believed the tree would not die but continue to decline, and while remedial work was possible, was of the opinion it would be better to remove and replace it.
Councillors agreed to remove the oak as part of this year's annual plan and plant a new tree in a "suitable location" in consultation with community representatives.
Clinton locals gathered on Friday to watch the oak getting chopped down.
David Mackie, who has lived in Clinton for 68 years, described the removal as a shame.
"It means a lot. I tried to save it 35 years ago when they tarsealed right up to its trunk.
"I stood over the guys and made them put holes in the tarseal for water, but it started dying from that point on."
"A lot of history has gone today," Mackie said.
A plaque at the base of the tree said it was planted on August 20, 1895, by the Clinton blacksmith William Charlton.
Rona Barnett, in her 80s, said she grew up with the oak tree.
"It's sad but inevitable; it holds so many memories. On New Year's eve everyone would gather round the oak tree for kissing and everything else … it' a bit of a landmark."
Peter Behrens said people in the community were not told the tree was being removed.
"Ninety per cent of people I spoke to knew nothing about it … as far as I know there was nothing put in letter boxes."
So many things in Clinton were named after the tree including the Oak Tree Inn, the Little Oaks creche and the school had an oak tree on its emblem, he said. "It's a sad day."
Clinton ward councillor John Cochrane said the tree's removal was reported at the annual meeting of the Clinton Community Committee on June 11, which was also attended by the mayor and council chief executive.
"It was discussed that night, but only five or so people from the township chose to turn up; it was never hidden - people had the opportunity to know, but chose not to."
The cost to remove the oak was about $1800 plus $400 to plant a replacement tree.
- Clutha Leader
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.