A specious and fallacious argument

Native, but not native enough, some say

Native, but not native enough, some say

“Those pohutukawa aren’t worth saving. They not even native to the area.” So runs the latest argument for cutting out the Waitara riverbank pohutukawa. This simplistic argument is just wrong on so many levels but those who espouse the line think it sounds right.

Apparently they think (though I fear they do not in fact think at all, except how to trump those they decry as *environmentalists* – or The Green Taliban, even – with what they think is an appropriate argument) that only vegetation that existed in pre-European days should be saved. Trouble is, there’s precious little of that left in this country and none in this particular area of the Waitara River.

Pohutukawa are of course native to New Zealand. In fact their pre-European spread has been traced to the Mimi river-mouth area which, as the crow flies, is maybe 15km north of the Waitara River. Not close enough, apparently, for those who decry the trees we are trying to save. No matter that 200 years have passed and the natural spread southwards would likely have continued without human intervention. And let us not factor in the small matter of evidence that Maori recognised the use of pohutukawa for river bank retention and deliberately took steps to spread the plant further. Nope, they are not native to the Waitara so they can be felled with impunity.

The logical extension of the argument is that NO tree is worth saving unless there is incontrovertible evidence that it occurred naturally in that particular location in pre-European times and has the correct provenance. That could have dramatic ramifications for significant trees all round the country.

The chainsaw brigade see the predominantly African planting in the foreground as being of more value than the established pohutukawa seen in the background

The chainsaw brigade see the predominantly African planting in the foreground as being of more value than the established pohutukawa seen in the background

No matter that the planting adjacent to the threatened pohutukawa is predominantly exotic South African, full of aloes, agaves and succulents. I am sure these folk will think that is worth preserving because it cost good money.

No matter that the Waitara River bears no resemblance at all to what it must have been like in 1800. The oh-so modern engineer is determined to render it a bare, grassed canal as testimony to his engineering skills. You know, using grasses that aren’t even native to this country. There is no plan to restore the plantings to how they were before human intervention. In fact, these folk who decry the existing trees as “not even native to the area” are almost certainly totally ignorant of what was native to the area.

Do these proponents of ecological purity ensure that any plant they choose for their own garden is an eco-sourced native plant? Nah. All they are trying to do is to discredit those who wish to retain the trees by using an argument that they think sounds frightfully clever.

The trees behind are to be clear felled. Removed entirely.

The trees behind are to be clear felled. Removed entirely.

Because, according to local Community Board member Joe Rauner, it is going to “look amazing” when these trees behind the concrete wall are felled soon. Note the supports going into the top of the concrete wall (the Berlin Wall of Waitara or the Graffiti Wall as some of us call it). That is to be overhanging security fencing which always means barbed wire. Visualise the backdrop without a single tree left. That is what is coming.

Postscript: I wonder if these naysayers who claim “not native enough to warrant saving” would use the same argument against protecting and valuing the kauri trees growing around our area. By their definition, they are even lower value than the Waitara pohutukawa because they certainly did not grow anywhere near this far south in pre-European times.

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