The condemned pine trees on a reserve at Alexandra’s southern entrance have received a reprieve, but those for and against their removal seem unswayed by each other’s arguments.
A drop-in session hosted by the Central Otago District Council (CODC) at the Alexandra Community Centre on Monday provided an opportunity for an exchange of opinions that remained respectful, while robust.
A draft concept plan was displayed at the session.
The CODC’s earlier decision to fell pines in the Half Mile reserve is in line with the New Zealand wilding conifer management strategy and the Otago Regional Council’s progressive containment programmes within the Otago pest management plan for wilding conifers.
Local residents were not consulted before a decision was made to log the trees in October, resulting in a strong community backlash against the plan.
A pause was put on the logging while community views were considered, and Monday’s meeting invited those views.
Phil Murray, an executive board member of the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Group, said the trees at Half Mile were in a particularly bad take-off zone to spread seeds in the prevailing northwest winds.
He was sympathetic to the concerns of local residents but said the pines were a threat to the indigenous ecosystem.
Hendrika (Eny) Waal Manning, who with her late husband, Jolyon Manning, planted the adjacent Jolendale Park, was able to provide some history.
She said the trees were planted by soldiers returning from the Middle East during World War 2, where they had seen deserts encroaching on arable land.
Her answer to what should be done to stop the spread of wilding pines from the reserve was simple, and one echoed by several others at the session.
“Do what we do at Jolendale Park,” she said.
“Pull out the seedlings.”
A major concern for those who live near the reserve was the condition the area would be left in following logging of the trees.
Alan Hamilton, a retired deputy principal at Dunstan High School, uses the reserve regularly to ride his bike and train athletes.
He said the existing trees block noise, sound and wind, particularly the southerlies.
“I hope they have the budget to tidy it up, to put in irrigation and plant natives to replace the pines.”
Louise van der Voort, executive manager of Planning and Environment for the CODC, said the first step was to hear back from the community on their views on the concept plan.
The CODC would then need to report to the Vincent Community Board “and see if they are willing to fund it”.
Vincent Community Board chairman Martin McPherson said the trees would not be coming down until a final plan was presented to the board and a final budget agreed to.
He did not expect that to happen before the board met for the second time next year, on March 22.