Tag Archives: saving native trees

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.

Tikorangi Notes: Sunday March 15, 2015 Mostly about saving native trees

Schefflera septulosa in flower

Schefflera septulosa in flower

Without the discipline of a weekly newspaper deadline, it is frankly alarming how quickly I find myself slipping out of the pattern of regular writing. I realise how focussed I was all the time on ideas and images to share, always thinking ahead. But I shall show discipline and application, dear Reader, because otherwise my ideas of writing a book will fade forever into pipe dream territory.

I shall set myself an easy task, I thought, and just rattle off a Plant Collector on Schefflera septulosa for starters. But a quick check shows that I had already done that three years ago. It is the story of my life as the years of writing rack up. What caught my eyes and ears this week was to walk beneath a plant of the aforementioned schefflera and to hear the hum of hundreds of busy honey bees. The flowers are not spectacular and I must admit that, not being the world’s most observant person, I had not noticed them before. As we do not have any beehives around us, we are delighted to see such large populations of bees in residence. It is a sign that we are managing a good ecosystem for them.

Foliage on our own kauri tree

Foliage on our own kauri tree


The felling of mature native trees in urban locations, done in the name of “modern progress” and “economic gain” is big news at the moment. Sustained protests in Auckland have seen the Western Springs pohutukawa (6 large trees) saved from the motorway widening exercise and a reprieve for a mature kauri due to be felled to make way for an outside deck on a new house in the bush-clad suburb of Titirangi. The age of the kauri was declared at 500 years and immediately challenged by those who think any environmental protest undermines economic wealth. Honestly, it becomes academic as to whether it is 200 or 500 years old, but for somebody to describe it as being a “newbie” is just ignorant. It is a significant surviving tree in a rare remnant of forest which pre-dates European settlement. I cannot think that other developed countries – particularly the UK – would countenance a developer cutting down such notable trees.
Our own kauri is but a young tree at 65 years

Our own kauri is but a young tree at 65 years

I headed down to photograph our kauri in our park. It is a juvenile at a mere 65 years old but has achieved a remarkable stature in that time because it was planted in prime conditions without competition from other plants. It would be nice to think that it may survive many generations into the future. The botanical name is Agathis australis but it is usual in New Zealand to refer to these by their Maori name of kauri.
The Waitara #Pohutukawa23

The Waitara #Pohutukawa23


In the meantime, our own battle to save 23 mature pohutukawa on the river bank in our local town continues. The local authorities are less receptive and responsive than in Auckland. Indeed, the Auckland pohutukawa team sent down their banners, bunting and yarn bombing for us to use on our Waitara 23. They survived many weeks in Auckland without mishap but a mere 24 hours in Waitara before the engineer contracted to the Regional Council saw fit to rip them down, damaging many in the process. So much for the right to peaceful, democratic protest in Taranaki. The tattered and damaged “regalia” was eventually returned and will be hung again today as a reminder to the council that this issue is not going to die a quiet death.

If you feel like adding your voice, to tell the Taranaki Regional Council that felling mature native trees is not just a local issue and that people beyond are watching, please visit our on-line email campaign and add your voice. Numbers matter and your support will be much appreciated.
???????????????????????????????We are inching gently into autumn and the under-rated belladonnas are in bloom. I am looking at these with new respect and thinking that they may warrant bringing in from the roadside to some of the areas of naturalistic garden. I dislike the descriptor “naturalistic gardening”, which seems clumsy to my eyes, but it is more accurate than “wild gardening” which may suggest weedy chaos to some.
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???????????????????????????????And finally, I leave you with Man, Planet Junior and Dogs this quiet Sunday morning – Mark heading over to his vegetable patch with a treasured implement from times past which he still uses on a regular basis.