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
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
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
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
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.