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

By TRACEY ROXBURGH and CASS MARRETT

DESPITE mounting pressure on Queenstown’s council to save five eucalyptus trees, they’re
destined for the chop next week.

Last week Mountain Scene reported three Queenstown tree removalists have declined quoting the council to remove the trees, on the corner of Brecon Street and Cemetery Road, to make way for a 4-metre path.

City Hall then had to look outside the Whakatipu to find a contractor — Scene asked who
that contractor was, but council couldn’t respond by deadline.

In a statement yesterday, council property and infrastructure general manager Peter
Hansby says the trees will be cut down on Monday.

The situation’s outraged many, including New Zealand Arboricultural Association secretary Mark Roberts.

He points out, in somewhat of a ‘‘coup’’, Queenstown was accredited as a ‘Tree City of the
World’ just last March — one of only three locations in NZ to be accredited, and the only place in the South Island.

The programme’s run by the Arbor Day Foundation and Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations.

‘Tree City’ label makes felling “farcical”

According to a statement the council itself released at the time, accreditation ‘‘recognises
select cities that make the planting and care of trees a priority’’.

Roberts says to have been named a Tree City of the World and then remove well-established, healthy trees seems ‘‘farcical’’.

He also labels the eucalyptus trees’ removal as ‘‘intergenerational theft’’.

‘‘If these trees are gone, in the urban environment people aren’t going to see trees that big [again].

‘‘Clearly, engineering solutions can be found, so to say that they can’t be found, that’s just not the truth.’’

Future plan: An artist’s impression shows what Brecon St will eventually look like, minus five eucalyptus trees

While he accepts coming up with such a solution would cost more, he contends, ultimately, it would end up being ‘‘cost-negative’’ on the basis of the monetary value of the trees’ sequestration.

Roberts commends local arborists, including Royal Tree Ltd, for declining to quote the project.

Its director, Jimmy Carling, tells Scene local arborists want to work with the council and the
alliance in charge of the CBD upgrade and arterial route projects to ensure ‘‘we don’t come
out the other end worse off’’.

While Carling appreciates that funding’s only available for a finite period, it’s important to
keep the ‘‘big picture’’ in mind.

‘‘[It’s about] making sure that when we come out the other end of it that we have actually seen the town improve … and we’re not left with a tree-less concrete jungle.’’

‘At odds with declaring climate emergency’

Carling says after he read last week’s Scene article he was ‘‘respectfully, appalled’’.

He notes council has its own district tree policy, and there are ‘‘numerous parts’’ of council’s statement last week that ‘‘flies in the face of’’.

Along with benefits for kereru and tui, which nest in the trees, Carling argues the Brecon St trees provide visual mitigation for urban intensification.

‘‘If those trees are removed … it’ll basically be a street with some high-rise buildings on it that’s relatively void of vegetation.

‘‘I just think it’s short-sighted — it makes it all very environmentally-unfriendly when you’re putting a cycle path in, you have to cut down five massive hardwoods.’’

It’s also at odds with City Hall declaring a ‘‘climate emergency’’, when the trees are providing an ‘‘environmental service’’.

‘‘Those eucalyptus are probably some of the oldest stands of eucalyptus in the district, and
when you think about what they’ve lived through … yet, now, they can’t survive a four metre-wide cycle path going in,’’ Carling says.

‘No option but to fell trees’

Council property and infrastructure general manager Peter Hansby’s reiterated comments the council made last week to justify the removal of five eucalyptus trees from Brecon Street.

‘No other option’:
City Hall’s property and infrastructure GM Peter Hansby

He maintains the design team couldn’t make any alternative options work without compromising the root structure and impacting the health and safety of the trees.

Removing them, to happen on Monday, will ‘‘allow us to make big improvements to our walking and cycling facilities, create a far better connection between Brecon St and the town centre and make it considerably safer for people to access the attractions in the area’’, he says.

At the same time ‘‘retaining and improving the tree canopy through out the town centre is an essential part’’ of the street upgrade programme, and new natives will be planted throughout the CBD ‘‘at greater numbers than we currently have in this area’’.

Brecon St’s being closed to traffic during the year-long upgrade, with access only for pedestrians, businessdrop-off and pick-up and mobility parking.

Petition launched

Queenstowner Kirsten Zaki’s launched a petition to save the Brecon Street eucalyptus
trees from the chop, arguing it’s not just about those trees, but the precedent it sets.

The petition, ‘Save Brecon Street Eucalyptus Trees’, on change.org, was launched last
week after she learned in Scene the five trees were to be felled to make way for a 4-metre path.

Zaki (above) says there needs to be a ‘‘more holistic approach’’ to development and better design solutions are needed, which take into account the environment at large.

Tree rooted

A large Queenstown Gardens gum tree (above) has been removed after suffering root damage.

Late last week, contractors working on the Gardens upgrade accidentally drilled into a large sewer pipe while installing a retaining wall above new paving.

In the repair job, the tree’s root structure was disturbed, with experts then deciding it was sufficiently compromised to make the eucalyptus — about 70-years-old — potentially unstable, and therefore a safety hazard, in a high-use area.

The tree’s limbs were first removed before it was taken down this week.

Hansby says the loss of the tree is disappointing, and certainly not intentional.

Nearby Park Street resident, former mayoress Lorraine Cooper, says “it was sad to see it go”.

She wonders how many other trees will be compromised as other central Queenstown streetworks are carried out

ed@scene.co.nz