Wellington Scoop

Giant old elm trees to be removed from Upper Hutt street

Press Release – Upper Hutt City Council
For many years, residents and users of McLeod Street in Upper Hutt have enjoyed the sight of a street lined with giant Siberian elm trees.

The trees were planted in 1949 and some have grown up to 21 metres tall with shade footprints rivalling most house sizes in the area. The limbs and branches stretch well beyond council berms, over neighbouring properties, footpaths, roadways, and power lines. Unfortunately, the elms have grown to a size and age where they are now entering a stage of decline in their lifespan. This poses a significant risk to people and property as the limbs become more brittle and likely to break off in strong winds.

Because of this risk, the Council will be removing the Siberian elm trees in McLeod Street over six days, beginning Monday. Contractors expect to be able to remove up to four trees per day, taking a staged approach to the removal.

“We acknowledge the pain this is going to cause for many residents, with the elms having been an ever-present sight in the lives of so many,” says Council’s Chief Executive, Peter Kelly. “McLeod Street has had a visual amenity rivaled by few other streets in the city, but sadly the increase in risk as the trees age beyond their prime is a factor that Council cannot ignore.”

“The removal of these trees, by any account, is a loss for Upper Hutt. We are very passionate about the urban biodiversity that is contained within our city and see ourselves as stewards of that. But we are making a commitment to begin the replanting phase as soon as possible. This will involve talking and meeting with residents and other groups around the type of trees Council could replant in the berms with a view to gain a broad view from across the community.”

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  1. Peter Kerr, 15. June 2019, 10:25

    Those Siberian elms are favourite resting spots for kereru, especially in Spring. While passing along McLeod Street,I’ve counted at least twenty at one time perched there, sunning themselves. It will be worth observing what happens when these great trees are gone.

  2. Brendan, 15. June 2019, 12:48

    If only New Zealanders could appreciate trees from around the world like other countries. Then we could achieve records for our remaining Siberian elms instead of chopping them down with alacrity.

    There is a 100 year old Siberian Elm in the Netherlands. With NZ’s current worsening attitude towards anything natural that’s exotic, I can’t see many of our deciduous street trees getting to a century! Very sad!

  3. CC, 15. June 2019, 13:46

    Brendan – there are differences between the growing rates of trees in Europe and NZ, so 100 years in Netherlands is probably not too different to 70 in NZ, especially if the brittle and NZ’s winds create a significant safety risk. As for appreciation or otherwise of exotics – the country has been inundated with exotics. It is therefore appropriate that there is an attitudinal change in favour of endemic species – many of which are threatened by diseases borne by exotics.

  4. Peter Kerr, 15. June 2019, 14:22

    Brendan, I don’t think there is a “worsening attitude towards anything natural that’s exotic” at all in New Zealand. There is a widespread awakening to the desperate plight of our native flora, to which we have the unique duty of taking every measure to protect.
    In the case of the elms, I agree with you. These trees too are gems. It is easy for authorities to say that they are in decline and to cut them all down. The correct way to go about it would be to annually get rid of dead or dangerous branches, but I suspect it would upset budgets.
    Many amenity trees are living legends and stand as monuments. That Siberian elms are such favourites for kereru (in this location, at least) needs be a reminder to the Council of their overall worth.
    By the way, your link above is a beauty.

  5. Heidi P, 16. June 2019, 8:41

    Agree with you Brendan about the single-mindedness of excluding some of nature as “not native”. In this limited thinking process, one fails to appreciate and respect life in all its forms. Species-ism is just like racism – it’s directed at certain groups of animals or plants. If the govt was concerned enough it could to make all the foreign forest owners in NZ plant native trees for the subsidies they get from taxpayers.

  6. Andy Foster, 16. June 2019, 11:10

    I think some people are reading too much into this. Councils employ expert arborists to make decisions on trees, including about when they are failing and potentially causing public danger. To take that to the stage of saying that Councils are trying to purge all non-native plants is a big big leap!

    The key issue with respect to non-native plants is the effects they cause. Many are magnificent and much loved parts of the urban or rural landscape. Specimen trees like these are often slow growing and long living. However some non-native plant species are rapid growing, invasive, supplant, choke or prevent growth of native plants. They are a problem especially when they get into the bush, or landscapes which they could take over. Think of plants like Old Mans Beard, Banana Passionfruit, Tradescantia, Darwin’s Barberry, Wilding Pine for example. They are the problem, and they do need to be controlled. This afternoon I’m working with Karori Kaitiaki (KAKA) on weed clearance (mostly tradescantia) and planting in one of our local bush reserves.

    The other point to make is that a plant can be fine in one location and not in another. Would you plant elm trees in native forest? I’d suggest not. Would you plant them on urban streets and gardens? Happily! Similarly your climbing non-native jasmine could be absolutely fine in the garden but is a problem in the bush. In Wellington we often use pohutukawa as a street tree because they can grow well as solitary exposed trees – unlike many native trees which prefer the shelter of the bush – but we wouldn’t plant pohutukawa in the City bush areas.

    Kind regards
    Andy Foster, City Councillor

  7. joy, 18. June 2019, 15:14

    Tree-hating ignoramuses. I notice they leave the trees in the leafy streets where the mayor lives.

  8. Wendy, 18. June 2019, 23:00

    How sad, as the street has always looked fantastic with all those beautiful trees. It will be a real shock, not only for the residents, but the bird life as well. Seems a shame they couldn’t remove every 2nd tree and plant in between to allow the new trees a bit of time to grow to lessen the shock.

  9. Pseudopanax, 19. June 2019, 5:56

    Yet another shocking example of the lack of heritage or conservation protection for superb mature specimens on our streets, which could be maintained safely if the council had the will to do so… a shocking cavalier attitude displayed by short sighted Council officers. Surely they ALL are not “Beyond their prime” but instead are beyond Mr Kelly’s imagination to preserve and protect 70+ years of a unique streetscape, gone for expediency and a OCD approach to street trees. Appallingly depressing!

  10. Donald T., 19. June 2019, 7:57

    Wendy & Lancewood. You are both so right! Unfortunately, the trees aren’t native so they get no respect from ‘The People in Control’. We need a non-racist policy for trees just like we have for humans. RESPECT ALL TREES I say!

  11. Graham Atkinson, 19. June 2019, 10:15

    I think you’ll find that not every tree is being removed only those identified as in serious decline or risk. [The council announcement does not make this clear.]

  12. Peter Kerr, 19. June 2019, 10:19

    Donald T. The native/exotic argument does not apply in this case. It is the hasty and all-encompassing tree-felling policy that is at fault. Intelligent tree husbandry would mean that regular attention to these street trees would mean we’d all be happy. My guess is that tree maintenance is low in priority with most local authorities, and that getting a bulk felling job done once saves on twenty-plus years of care.
    That this avenue is so favoured by kereru is of importance. Once removed, what is there to attract these beautiful birds across the river and to bring some joy with them to the good citizens of Upper Hutt?
    Time for a fight, perhaps?

  13. Peter Kerr, 19. June 2019, 10:38

    Thank you Graham. On closer reading it does say four trees to be removed per day over six days. Still this is a major reduction.

  14. Farmer Bill, 19. June 2019, 10:50

    Happened in Featherston too with a superb oak tree in its prime that a church deemed to expensive to prune in the face of an unhelpful power company. A good neighbour offered to prune it for free, but the uncaring church owners still had it chopped down. They were going to flog the wood but then a smidgen of serendipity happened! The trailer load of oak firewood got stolen.

  15. greenwelly, 19. June 2019, 13:40

    Four per day over 6 days is 24 trees; a quick look on google maps indicates that number pretty well corresponds to all the large ones….

  16. Deezel, 8. July 2019, 20:41

    Too sad. Drove down MacLeod Street today and not a tree left! Just googled and found this story. Was aware that the new council CE had a military background …. and trees and military bases haven’t mixed much anywhere I know. Oh dear ..added to the recent denuding of exCIT campus, Trentham Camp and other military land around Trentham, it seems the anti-tree war continues. Problem being that there is now an established tree removal industry now and the machine needs constant feeding. Watching the Tour de France on tv ..in Brussels and huge trees everywhere.