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No lives left: The Brecon St eucalyptus trees are being removed from today

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Five eucalyptus trees in Queenstown will live to see another day, for now.

Due to be felled on Monday, to make way for a 4-metre cycle path, part of an upgrade of Brecon Street, in a statement this afternoon, the City Hall says their removal’s been “temporarily put on hold”.

That’s because the trees are home to tui, kereru and fantail, and it’s believed the latter two are building their nests in the trees at present.

Under the Wildlife Act 1953, it is against the law to ‘‘rob, disturb or destroy’’ the nest of any protected wildlife or game.

Penalties include fines up to $10,000 for individuals, plus at least $500 for each head of wildlife and egg, or, for body corporates, fines up to $200,000 for partially-protected wildlife or game.

For absolutely protected species, the maximum penalty for individuals was up to two years’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals.

Forest & Bird Otago-Southland regional conservation manager Rick Zwaan says if native birds are building their nests in the eucalyptus trees at present, ‘‘it’s quite concerning’’.

‘‘The Wildlife Act provides general protections for native birds, and I’m unaware if the council has sought a permit from DoC [Department of Conservation] to disturb their nests.”

Mountain Scene asked DoC yesterday if Queenstown’s council’s applied for, or been granted, such a permit and is waiting on that response.

Zwaan says Queenstown’s got a “|significant number of special trees” and is recognised as a Tree City of the World.

‘‘It should be doing what it can to ensure they’re looked after, rather than cutting them down and removing nesting sites for native birds.”

In its statement today, the council said the project’s postponement was to allow for an ecological report on the trees to be prepared and “the possibility of nesting native birds to be investigated”.

“A further Councillor briefing will be held early next week and an update on next steps will follow soon after.”

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz