Oak tree cull plan clarified

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

LAWRENCE officials are hoping controversy regarding the proposed felling of a prominent oak tree may have settled.

During a November meeting, the Lawrence›Tuapeka Community Board announced the ‘‘semi›mature’’ tree, at the top of the town’s Zig›Zag Track linking Lancaster and Colonsay Sts, would be felled due to health and safety concerns.

At that meeting, the board concluded the tree was a safety hazard because its acorns and leaves made the steep track slippery. Concerns were also raised about the continued effect of the tree’s root growth, which was lifting the track surface.

The Clutha District Council has earmarked $50,000 for track refurbishment.

Following continuing negative feedback to the proposed felling on social media, the board released a statement last week explaining its decision.

In the statement, co›signed by board chairman Geoff Davidson and ward councillor Mel Foster, it says the tree requires felling to future proof any track works.

‘‘While the oak is significant, it does not suit this environment and has caused significant damage to the footpath . . .and its sap leaves a sticky residue on the handrail. When it was planted, consideration wasn’t given to the fact it could topple in the area’s shallow ground and its leaves would create a dangerous slipping hazard, as would its acorns. As the tree grows, it will also start affecting the [overhead and underground] powerlines.’’

The tree could eventually more than double in size, creating a ‘‘hazard to public safety’’ through the risk of toppling.

The findings were backed by an arborist’s report.

Cr Foster said the board had decided to issue the statement after locals questioned the wisdom of felling a tree simply because it ‘‘dropped acorns’’.

‘‘We wanted to explain it was a bit more than just acorns, and go into the broader reasoning behind the project. None of us wants to get rid of a tree but, once that happens, we can get the Zig› Zag project under way properly.’’

Landscaping with more appropriate plantings would replace the oak, Cr Foster said.

The board had received no further comment following its statement last week, she said.

The tree is expected to be removed at the earliest opportunity, at an estimated cost of $3500.