Feedback sought on reserve tree plans

David Scoones. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
David Scoones. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
As the controversial felling of trees at the Half Mile reserve in Alexandra is set to start next week, the Central Otago District Council is seeking community feedback on restoration plans.

For more than 16 months, the future of the trees at the southern entrance to the town has been a source of contention; passionate advocates arguing for them to be retained, or for a staged approach to be taken for their removal.

However, the trees have been deemed a significant seed source contributing to the spread of wilding pines in the area and, under the district council’s wilding conifer control policy, have to go.

Council community experience group manager David Scoones said there was a plan in place for planting mid-2024 which would show off the site’s "natural landscape and historic features" and also protect and create habitat for the reserve’s special fauna such as lizards and native birds.

He was keen for the public to provide more feedback on key aspects of the landscape plan.

"We’ve had some excellent feedback already from the community from things like tree ratios, to different varieties of trees, through to someone who recalls visiting the reserve in the 1950s as a child to view the night lights, so a huge thank you everyone who has either popped in to see the team or sent through a message with their ideas, and we’d love to hear more," Mr Scoones said.

The landscape plan shows areas for shelter trees along the boundary and in the reserve.

Poplars were initially presented as an option, however natives kowhai and Hoheria had since been suggested as options to provide shade.

"We’re keen to hear what people think of these varieties or any other ideas they might have that would also provide a similar amenity to the reserve," he said.

The council had already reached out to various community groups it had previously engaged with for personal drop-ins with key staff members, and more public drop-in sessions were in the works.

These would allow people to see visuals of the plant palette and provide feedback.

Online engagement options were available on the council website through the Let’s Talk Half Mile project page, he said.

The Half Mile reserve officially closes on Thursday in preparation for the tree felling.

Signs will be in place and the felling operator will work through the site in sections.

Spotters will also be present and council staff and contractors will conduct regular patrols to keep a close eye on the reserve.