At the time of writing, the council’s (expensive) tree service contractors are probably cutting the two big old palms with chainsaws, and the action has created controversy on social media with dozens of ‘keyboard warriors’ condemning it.
However, unlike tree clearances by a certain local property businessman, this isn’t arbitrary, wanton destruction, but a considered step based on legitimate concerns. It wasn’t just a decision by council staffers either, but also a small panel of locals.
One of them, Sue Lusk of Destination Waikanae, tells us:
“Of course there will be nice trees [to replace the Phoenix palms] and not too tiny to start with. They’ll be nicer to sit under (well, actually possible to sit under, unlike the palms) and plants will be able to grow under them. I am hoping for slightly spreading shade trees, but that decision will be in the fine-tuning of the last bits of the design.
“I’ll go down this evening with a box in case there are any fledgling birds but the consensus from Nga Manu was that the foliage is so dense and prickly there probably won’t be many birds in there. I will go and see.
“We did discuss Nikau palms [as replacements] but I don’t know what they’ll decide (Nikau palms don’t provide any shade and look a bit ratty down the other arm of Mahara Place so I’m not really in favour of them [they are also slow growers — Eds]. Kowhai could be amazing, given the tui flock to the one by the main road, but a bit messy, so — watch this space.”
Our attitude has always been one of neutrality on it; the Phoenix palms weren’t the best choice to begin with and there are nicer species that should have been planted there. If that finally happens with a few appealing replacements, then in about 5 years it should all look pretty good.
A media statement issued today by the council:
As part of the phoenix palm removal happening this week in Mahara Place, Waikanae, the Kapiti Coast District Council is working with experts on a plan for retrieving and relocating any nesting birds found in the trees.
“We’ve been approached by some concerned residents about the timing of the palm tree removal, because it’s likely that sparrows are nesting in the trees at this time of year. Last week we commenced work to develop a plan for safely retrieving and relocating any birds found,” says Sean Mallon, Group Manager Infrastructure Services.
“We’ve been working with experts who’ve offered advice about the birds living in these trees. They’ve advised us that the birds can nest all year round if there is food available, and in urban areas like the town centre, there usually is a continuous supply of leftovers and crumbs.
“Based on all the advice we’ve received, we’ll go ahead with the removal as planned. Tree removal work is planned for tomorrow, through until Thursday 22 November and we have a plan in place for retrieving and relocating any nesting birds from the trees.”
Mr Mallon says the decision to remove the trees wasn’t any easy one, but was made after discussion with a tree arborist, designers, the community board and the Mahara Place Development Committee.
“A range of factors were taken into account. This includes the trees’ suitability to the space, their long-term health, their ability to withstand construction work, and people’s health and safety.
“The tree condition report carried out states that the trees are likely to become unstable in the future, even if they survive construction around them.”