To cut or to move? Trees a sticking point for Marlborough’s council

Source: Local Democracy Reporting

Trees have become a sticking point for Marlborough’s council, again.

Trees at Kensington Place Reserve

At first glance, the request from Marlborough District Council staff seemed pretty straightforward; to transplant three juvenile oak trees from Kensington Place Reserve to other reserves in Blenheim.

In 2008 when the Nottinghill subdivision in north-west Blenheim was developed the developer “heavily” planted out the reserve.

But recent pruning work had identified there was significant competition amongst the trees in the small space they are growing in.

So staff had requested three trees be re-homed, although it’s not yet decided where.

The council’s parks and open spaces manager, Jane Tito, told councillors transplanting had been done before, and it was the best time of year for the trees to be moved as they were dormant.

Blenheim ward councillor Jamie Arbuckle, who attended the meeting via Zoom, first apologised about a chainsaw in the background, saying it was not for the oak trees in question.

Arbuckle, who sat on the Marlborough Landscape Group, supported the recommendation to move the trees after visiting the site.

“It is overcrowded in this reserve, the fact that these trees can be put somewhere else will be useful,” he said.

“I think if it works well, it will be something that we can look at for possibly other future tree requests for removal, but obviously they may be of size.”

He requested council staff reported back to them about how successful the move was.

Wairau-Awatere councillor Cynthia Brooks asked when the subdivision was developed if there was “good oversight” into the planting of the trees.

“They come through a consenting process, and they provide a landscaping plan, I assume? Was there good oversight ... in terms of, how could someone not see that in time these trees would be overcrowded and need to be moved at council’s expense?”

Tito confirmed the consenting request would have come through the council’s parks and reserves team back when the subdivision was developed, and agreed the overcrowding issue should have probably been picked up.

Blenheim ward councillor Michael Fitzpatrick, also attending the meeting via Zoom, asked what the difference in price was to move the trees, or just buying similar ones from a supplier.

Parks and open spaces officer Robert Hutchinson said it would be about $1500 more to transfer the trees (costing about $4000) than it was to buy new trees (around $2500).

It prompted Fitzpatrick to ask a follow-up question.

“Can Jamie [Arbuckle] bring the chainsaw to town, and we buy some new ones [trees] to save $1500?”

But Hutchison said cutting them down and mulching them was “certainly not the look” council would want.

“We are talking trees that are 7, 8 metres high in structure. But a good solution is to move them and reuse them,” Hutchinson said.

Deputy mayor Nadine Taylor then asked those councillors who sat on the assets and services committee to vote on the recommendation to move the trees, having heard the extra information.

Despite the extra cost, councillors agreed to the move, including Fitzpatrick. Arbuckle did not sit on the committee and therefore could not vote until it was moved to full council on June 30.

Blenheim ward councillor Jenny Andrews declared a conflict of interest and did not vote, as she lived in the neighbourhood.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air