An ex-mayor is furious Queenstown Lakes District Council has taken residents’ money to “butcher” a reserve to improve their views.
QLDC has felled a wide swathe of wilding conifers and eucalyptus trees on the popular Sunshine Bay track – former mayor Warren Cooper calls it a “heavy-handed attack on one of Queenstown’s favourite walking tracks”.
In response to Cooper’s complaint, QLDC forester Briana Pringle says many large eucalyptus trees were dying and the conifers “suppress native vegetation”.
She also reveals removal of the trees was “requested by a number of residents along the Glenorchy/Queenstown Road”.
Those residents shelled out more than $10,000 for felling and replanting, she tells Mountain Scene.
Cooper: “The walk from the One Mile to Sunshine Bay is a unique and quite extraordinary escape from the hustle and bustle of a very busy town – or it was, until a quite unnecessary act of wilful vandalism.”
He claims very few trees needed removal.
“The most galling feature is the acceptance of virtually a bribe to council from those residents who built their homes knowing the trees were on the reserve – then pestering council officials for action by offering money towards the cost of removal.
“I seek an assurance that sanctions will be imposed which will ensure this act of folly will not be seen as a precedent for others to follow,” Cooper tells QLDC.
Views from three houses have been substantially enhanced, undoubtedly increasing their value, he tells Mountain Scene.
“No one can complain about judicious thinning but this ‘conservation on the basis of scorched earth’ – bugger that.”
Pringle says the Sunshine Bay tree-clearing is a special case: “QLDC is not worried about this creating a precedent.”
There’s a long-term conifer-removal plan for the area but QLDC doesn’t have the money to carry it out.
“The residents approached us so we thought it’s a good opportunity for them to pay for it instead of the council – and we’ve also been able to sell the logs and firewood off,” Pringle says.