Trees – some for removal, some that should never have been removed and one that is not going to be removed

Abies procera – sadly, reluctantly for the chop. I took this photo from our bedroom window – imagine the impact of this tree crashing into the house.

Trees have been much on my mind this week. Tomorrow an arborist team is due in to take down the Abies procera close to our back door, limb by limb. I shall take photographs and report on progress next week. It is a large and handsome tree but the risk of it falling so close to the house is now just too high. It could potentially take out most of the house.

The good burghers of Mount Albert in Auckland have whipped themselves into a frenzy this week over the planned removal of 345 exotic trees from the recreational area that they know as Mount Albert but more correctly referred to as Ōwairaka. I had a look at the list of trees marked for removal and while there are a few that may be of merit, most are banksias, eucalypts, cherries (likely seedlings of P. campanulata), willows and olives. All have their place, but they are probably not worth getting too upset about. The plan is to replant with natives to extend the native trees already growing on the site.

Talk of removing exotics to replant with native species is enough to wind up some sectors of the populace with talk of ‘PC gone mad’. And indeed, I felt a little defensive myself. I am, after all, a Jury and our defining tree is the exotic magnolia. But then I read this piece on The Spinoff and I decided that I did not need to have an opinion on this matter. Those iconic landscape markers referred to as ‘mountains’ in Auckland – defunct volcanic cones that are definitely small hills now as opposed to proper mountains – are privately owned by iwi of Tāmaki Makaurau and they generously allow continued public access to this land. They are not public reserves. These maunga have spiritual and sacred significance for Maori and if they want to clothe their land in purely native trees and re-create the pre-European landscape for these landmarks, that is their right and that should be respected.

I can not help but suspect that some of the loudest voices may come from people who would happily fell a tree on their own land because it casts shade, breaks up concrete or drops acorns that are, allegedly, dangerous. That last link leads to a story of another application in Auckland to remove a protected oak tree that was clearly growing for many, many decades before the current house was built so the owners must have known the protected tree was there when they purchased the place. They want to remove it and are offering to replace it with… (drum roll, please) a feijoa which is more a shrub than a tree. Personally, I would have thought that fallen feijoas would be more hazardous than fallen acorns.

All I can say is that Urenui has changed a little since we lived there. The hair house used to be a craft shop and the Ngati Mutunga offices were the local convenience store.

Our eldest child came home for a visit this week, bringing our only grandchild with her. He is only three so we had several days out and about, combining adult and small person interests. A fish and chip lunch at a nearby seaside settlement named Urenui was on the agenda. This was for purely sentimental reasons. We used to live in Urenui and it is where our children spent their early and middle childhood years so it is a place full of memories.

The grandson’s enthusiasm for swimming waned somewhat in the face of light rain and a chill wind but we looked across to the riverside reserve that bounded our old property. It is eroding. Of course it is. Much of New Zealand’s coastline is eroding and even 25 years ago when we left, the erosion potential was fully understood.

It was for precisely that reason that Mark planted pohutukawa trees at generous spacings along the river reserve. He did it properly – first getting permission from the Council and then involving local residents in the planting in order to establish some sense of community ownership of the trees. And he selected cultivars with different flower colours – albeit all shades of orange and red – to give variety and interest. The wide spacings were so that they would not block residents’ water views. Mark’s plan was that the trees would act both as markers for the eroding bank and also provide some stabilising against that very issue. Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) are particularly well adapted to growing right on the coast with massive root systems which can stabilise crumbling banks.

Mark’s pohutukawa forming a buttress against the erosion caused by tidal rise and fall

It must be at least 15 years ago that Council decided, in their wisdom, to remove some of the trees and relocate them to Waitara. The official story was they were *saving* the trees from falling into the river but we knew that was a nonsense. It is far more likely that a local or two complained that they were starting to block their views because the removals were randomly spaced.

I distinctly remember that a tree was removed from this spot and oh, look. It has eroded so badly now that it needed a rock retaining structure installed to protect the road

One or two trees were removed from this stretch

and more erosion further along the bank.

Ironically, as we ate our fish and chips across the river, we could see the surviving trees that Mark planted and it is clear how well they are retaining the banks around them. Where the rock retaining wall has now been put in on the corner is the exact spot where one of the trees was removed. I remember this well because Mark and I went out to have a look at the time and the tree removal had already damaged the bank and it was visibly crumbling. If they had left the tree in place, it might well have saved the need to install a rock retaining wall instead.

Prunus Pearly Shadows a week ago

and the petal carpet beneath two days ago.

Finally, I give you the delight of falling pink snow – the petals of Prunus Pearly Shadows this week. The flowering has been a little later this year but the charm does not fade with familiarity. It is on the edge of our visitor carpark. Even though no fewer than three cars have reversed into this tree over the years, we have no plans to remove it. It is extremely visible and in a large space so we put the unfortunate incidents down to driver inattention.

10 thoughts on “Trees – some for removal, some that should never have been removed and one that is not going to be removed

  1. Jenny Williams

    A lovely cherry indeed. I had not heard of it. Re the felling of the exotics in Mt Albert, I can understand the want of natives – on the other hand, trees like banksias are fab for native birds, namely the tui. Probably the eucalypts too.
    A sad story of the pohutukawas. When WILL they learn?! Perhaps the residents are Important People……

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Prunus campanulata are fantastic for feeding tui but are a major weed which makes them woefully unsuitable for a nature reserve. I think we just have to trust that the extensive planning has factored in winter feed for the birds.


    I played on all those Auckland mountains as a child, they were public and protected by public agencies. There is nothing to be grateful to Iwi about when using them. They belong to all New Zealanders and we still need to protect them.

  3. tonytomeo

    As an arboris who composes reports needed for the issuance of tree removal permits, I see a LOT of this. Not too long ago, people were complaining that the electricity needed to be turned off because of the fire danger associated with the weather and the likelihood that trees might drop limbs onto electrical cables. yet, so-called ‘environmentalists’ want to save the eucalypti and acacia, which really should be exterminated. (They can’t really be exterminated of course.) It makes no sense. Trees that should be protected are not, and trees that must be removed are protected. The all time weirdest though was a single small valley oak that was planted in a park as a memorial. Someone wrote letters to Santa Cruz County Parks, the Department of Public Works, the District Supervisor, the Sheriff’s Office (!) and a local newspaper (that I work for), and probably a few others, DEMANDING that the tree be removed because the deceased whom it was planted in memory of was homeless, and she (as in one person of the thousands who live here) hates homeless people.

      1. tonytomeo

        She has TWO (!) Facebook pages about how much she hates homeless people, and one about how much she hates me for my involvement with them! I’m a star!

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        I take my hat off to you. Some people are just downright ugly in every way. Like the homeless CHOOSE to be homeless? Of course they don’t want a nice cosy apartment or a pleasant suburban house because the prefer to live as derided homeless. I assume that is what she is arguing.

      3. tonytomeo

        Yes, and that they are all criminals and drug addicts, and that people like me perpetuate their problems. BUT, before I rant any more about this, I should say that she has mental health issues of her own. (I can say that because you don’t now who she is.) I really should be more accommodating. I get angry about it and write what I write about on the other blog because she and those like her try to make things more difficult for the homeless. I try to offset that to some degree, by providing insight into homeless culture and society in a minor way.
        Wow, that really got off the topic of ‘trees’.

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