Waikouaiti's pines create controversy

Waikouaiti residents fear a proposal by the Dunedin City Council to fell a pine plantation next to the town's beach will leave them vulnerable to coastal erosion and being battered by wind and sand.

These were just some of the concerns expressed at a meeting in Waikouaiti this week where the council discussed its proposal to remove the pine plantation next to Waikouaiti Beach in two stages beginning in January and finishing in 2014.

About two-thirds of the 85 people at the meeting, held in the East Otago Events Centre, raised their hands in support when a member of the audience asked who opposed the removal of the beach frontage pine trees.

The council's proposal was to fell the trees and use the money from selling the logs to fund the planting of native trees. Any money left over would be used in the area.

Waikouaiti residents Dylan Neill and Liz Evans, who were at the meeting and live next to the plantation, were concerned about the threat of erosion and said there had been a lack of consultation on the plan.

Mr Neill said the trees prevented the sand dunes "invading" Waikouaiti.

"People are really worried that if we undermine the banks at all that it will just wash away."

The trees acted as a windbreak and felling them would leave residents vulnerable to wind.

The council was unable to allay residents' fears at the meeting, he said.

"We are really getting the impression that they have decided what they are going to do and they are just letting us know afterwards."

Ms Evans, who runs the local dog kennels, Animotels, said the trees blocked sand from blasting the dogs she kept on her property and their removal would "definitely" affect her business.

Only the most dangerous trees should be removed, she said.

Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Gerard Collings said the board and the council took the concerns of the community seriously.

"I have given my personal undertaking ... that no work will commence on site until such time as the issues and matters raised have been considered," he said.

That included evaluating other options such as doing nothing or felling the trees in a more staggered manner.

It was decided to fell the trees because they had passed their economic maturity and were beginning to pose a safety risk because of their age, he said.

Council parks manager Lisa Wheeler said the council had taken notice the of the community's concerns and that there was "no hurry" to begin felling.

"We are going to go away and try and come up with a couple more options and then we will be looking at going back to the community with those options," she said.



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