Council has the right to cull trees

Last updated 08:55 02/07/2014

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An uneasy truce has been reached in the battle over Waitara's riverside pohutukawa trees.

The New Plymouth District Council has conceded defeat and has agreed the Taranaki Regional Council does have the legal right to pull the trees out and put them through the wood chipper.

In return, the TRC has said it will only remove about half of the 116 pohutakawa.

TRC river manager John Philpott said he had known all along that the regional council had the right to remove the trees.

"It took NPDC long enough to work it out," he said.

In April members of the Friends of the Waitara River raised concerns over the imminent removal of the trees.

The TRC claimed the trees were of detriment to the river bank and said they needed to be pulled out.

However, the group, which included Tikorangi resident Fiona Clark, pleaded with the NPDC councillors to stop TRC removing the trees as the pohutukawa were listed as notable in the district plan and therefore couldn't be removed without resource consent.

But, the regional council has designation over the area while it undertakes a three-year, $3 million project to raise the stopbanks and make other changes to protect the town from floods.

The NPDC has since discovered that once land is designated, the designated purpose overrides any underlying district plan rules.

Ralph Broad, NPDC's manager of consents said the trees were initially included in the district plan because they were healthy specimens in a prominent location.

But this didn't stop from them being removed, he said.

"The TRC have a statutory right to remove the notable trees to enable the proposed flood protection works," he said in a report.

At last week's Waitara community board meeting it was agreed that the board would request a copy of the report that TRC has based their decision to remove the trees on.

This report will be made available to the public when it is received.

Philpott said the TRC had never intended to remove all of the pohutukawa but had since decided to take even less that originally planned.

"We've reassessed and we are going to leave more than half of them there," he said.

"But if they undermine the river bank, they'll be coming out."

In a perfect world, Philpott said, those species of trees would never have been planted close to a river bank.

"As a part of river management it just wouldn't happen," he said.

"I wouldn't let it."

Although the trees did provide a sense of natural beauty to the area, the TRC's concern was for safety.

"No 1 is flood protection for the people of Waitara. No 2 is good looks."

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Philpott hoped the trees would be removed sometime this year and work would begin on flood protection walls during the next summer.

- Taranaki Daily News

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