Big tree poses problem

Pact property manager Ferdi Koen demonstrates the size of the gigantic wellingtonia tree growing out of a small central courtyard right in the middle of one of its care homes for people with intellectual disabilities. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Pact property manager Ferdi Koen demonstrates the size of the gigantic wellingtonia tree growing out of a small central courtyard right in the middle of one of its care homes for people with intellectual disabilities. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
The Dunedin City Council's policy towards trees is being put to the test as councillors try to decide what should take priority - a huge, healthy, century-old specimen tree or the house that was built around it 20 years ago.

Pact property manager Ferdi Koen has the mother of all tree problems to deal with: a 27m wellingtonia that grows straight out of a courtyard in the centre of its residential care facility in Wakari.

The stunning tree is more than 100 years old, grows straight and true and is healthy, but it might have to get the chop 850 years before its time.

Pact - a housing and care provider for people with intellectual disabilities - has applied for a resource consent to remove the tree, which is listed on the schedule of protected trees but is looming large over its 12 resident clients.

Dunedin City Council trees officer Aidan Battrick told a committee considering the issue yesterday that the oldest trees of its type lived for about 3000 years in the United States but would live for only 1000 years in New Zealand.

The house beneath the tree was built in 1952 and then converted to a rest-home in 1989. The large tree was enclosed by an addition in 1992.

Mr Koen could not understand why the addition was built around the tree because of the obvious problems that it would cause later.

He said Pact wanted the tree gone because of the mess it created and the potential safety problems. A low branch fell off in 2012, resulting in some tiles being damaged.

Mr Battrick said the wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) was a very stable tree and not likely to fall over.

Council planner Amy Young said she could not recommend a course of action because it was unclear what damage had already been caused to the building.

She said it was a balance between removing a tree with wider landscape values to the surrounding area and avoiding damage to the building.

An engineer's report stated that removing the tree could actually cause more damage to the foundations because when the roots rotted away, they would leave cavities.

Mr Koen said they were spending $15,000 every three or four years on carpet cleaning to prevent mould caused by blocked gutters and moisture getting into the walls and under the floor.

He said the building was in shade a lot of the time and they also needed to spend $200,000 on the site to upgrade bathrooms to wheelchair standard.

One option they were considering was building a purpose-built facility, but they might not have the funds for that for another 20 years.

 

Overlooked

Hype O Thermia has overlooked this key portion of the article:


"An engineer's report stated that removing the tree could actually cause more damage to the foundations because when the roots rotted away, they would leave cavities."

Translation for Hypo: Unleashing the facility's frustrations on the healthy tree in question is an exercise in frustration and futility, to the detriment of the community.

I also remind Hypo of this part: "One option they were considering was building a purpose-built facility..."

This means that they are considering the option of moving the people to a better, more appropriate facility, well before I or anyone else ever concieved of the idea.  The statement goes on to say that they don't have the funds.  My comment was in response to this sad situation.  The best idea is to move the people away from the tree; the funds must be found in a co-operative society to work to that end.  [Abridged]

Can we count on the Council?

This is where Dunedin City Council need to stand up and be counted. Do they value our heritage trees or will they allow this healthy tree to be removed because it is a bit messy and bothersome?

Treat people like objects

There was the bright idea that Invermay expertise, inconveniently in the shape of highly trained human beings with skills that aren't exactly in worldwide oversupply, could be moved at whim irrespective of the wishes of the workers themselves. Now here is another expression of the idea that it's OK to pick up NZers from one place and plonk them down in another, for the convenience of others: "the old folks need to be moved to a better housing siuation" (The Observer) because of a tree that was trendily left in place and built around, back when this looked like a good idea. Could it be that it's because they are "old people" "with intellectual disabilities" that moving them, into no matter how charming a new "purpose built home" as yet unbuilt is OK?

One question I'd like asked and truthfully answered is why did Pact buy/lease/build/alter this property for that purpose, when a moment's thought would have alerted the decision-makers to the fact that an extremely long-lived tree that had not reached its mature size would continue to grow? Did nobody predict the amount of shade, the amount of gutter-clearing, and built into the ongoing budget the amount that would be required for heating, drying and clearing fallen material so frequently that drainage of rainfall is never impeded?

Sounds like a beautiful tree

You cannot easily replace a healthy giant redwood. It was unwise to build a house around such a stately long-lived tree. 

Maybe it's time for a building renovation or time to move the structure a bit (if possible). Would insurance some of the cost?

Both the tree and the people

are important.  The tree stays and is celebrated by the communiy - the old folks need to be moved to a better housing siuation.  The management need to listen to the engineer - taking the tree out won't get the result you want.  Instead, work with environmentalists to do a "kick starter" campaign to raise the funds for a purpose built home and to also save the tree at the same time.  Work together, not against one another. 

Funds for projects like this could have easily be found in the enormous wasted river of money poured into the bankrupt white elephant stadium. What a pity.

Wellingtonia Dunedini

There is no reason to fell a stable giganteum just because it's in the way. Times have changed.

The tree should stay

Pretty clear that the tree should stay. All they seem to be saying is "it's a bit of a pain" which was not unforseeable. Whoever built there presumably judged that it was worth it. If they misjudged, tough.

It's not particularly dangerous, and to allow it to be destroyed would send exactly the wrong message to anyone else considering similarly ill-judged building - and it would render the whole policy worthless.

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