Tree cull horrifies Hamilton residents

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014
trees
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
GOUGED: Endeavour Ave has lost 145 trees.

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Chainsaws have ripped through hundreds of mature trees and stump grinders have finished the job, gouging out root bases to leave once leafy Hamilton avenues barren.

Flagstaff was the scene of a mass felling of nearly 200 20-year old liquidambar trees, with 145 gone from Endeavour Ave and 50 from Discovery Drive and surrounding streets.

The work was part of the city council's "renewal and replacement programme" but it has left local residents outraged.

Endeavour Ave will be replanted with acer, a type of maple tree, in the coming months but the sheer scale of the work left Teresa Baird and her children shocked.

"They were absolutely devastated because we walk down Endeavour Ave to get to the park so the girls love playing in the leaves and the trees and everything."

Grass verges in Flagstaff were left bare after stump grinding and top-soil replacement. Work was set to continue in Huntington, Fairview Downs and Fitzroy, Te Rapa, Nawton and Bader over the coming weeks.

Baird has been a resident of Flagstaff for 13 years and said the summer shade offered by the liquidambar trees and the rich autumn colour would be sorely missed.

"We'd only just a month before been saying, ‘oh my god, it's so beautiful in autumn' when we drive down here," she said.

The mature trees added character to established suburbs and were a selling point for house hunters. They were one of the reasons she chose to live in Hamilton.

"It was starting to make such an avenue of trees," she said. "Basically, it was bare and it made me want to cry."

Concerned Waikato Times reader Pitt Ramsay said it was a travesty to take down trees that offered summer shade and winter warmth.

‘The whole point with deciduous, although they are untidy in autumn and we all suffer the consequences of a bit of leaf-fall during that period, is that they allow light in during the winter."

"If we want to keep the town attractive to visitors and residents then we have to put our best foot forward," he said.

David Haydock sent an email to the Times concerned the same problem would occur again in the future.

Mary-Jane Rata said fruit trees should be planted in their place.

The Waikato Times requested an interview with the council's acting parks and open spaces manager, Gina Hailwood, but communications advisor Jeff Neems forwarded an email response.

She said the "inherited" trees were inappropriate in some areas of the city and roots were responsible for damaged footpaths and underground services.

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Sections of path on Endeavour Ave were lifted and cracked and work was done to grind down the rough edges, leaving a smooth transition for walkers, but it still left a major hazard.

Leaves clog drains and cover the ground making it hard to see the path. Spinnaker Drive resident Marie Mahne, who had a fall while using her walker, can't wait for arborists to arrive outside her home.

"I think most of us are so fed up with these trees that we can't take it anymore," she said.

"This is urgent. I was so glad when I saw people come in and we are awaiting them here in Spinnaker Drive."

The acer was not expected to cause the same problems to paths and services in the future and would offer decent shade at maturity. President of Hamilton Grey Power Roger Hennebry said he was torn between his love for trees and the safety of older residents after a number of his members suffered injuries from falls.

"We tend to be putting the wrong trees on kerb sides," he said.

"We've got to have a tree or shrub that is suitable for the position."

"From an older person's point of view, who is not that steady on their feet, who quite often have a walking stick or a walker, they almost seem like a mountain, some of those bumps."

The council's 10-year plan showed it managed more than 30,000 trees in the city.

Mayor Julie Hardaker said they were committed to maintaining the city's leafy character.

Maintenance was done during the winter months each year and it was important to keep on top of the health of the trees.

"This is maintenance work to ensure we do maintain the trees and the beauty of the trees across the city," she said.

"I can assure everyone that we put a high priority on maintaining and enhancing the beauty of all the trees and the green space and the gardens we've got here."

- Waikato Times

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