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The trees tower over Balclutha’s Christie St Playground, at 30m and 18m respectively. After a couple who live nearby raised safety concerns during the district’s long-term plan hearings in May, the Clutha District Council voted to axe them, leading resident Maxine Evans to successfully seek an injunction. This week the case reached the High Court in Dunedin for judicial review before Justice Gerald Nation.
About 12 people were present in court, including Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan and Mrs Evans. Council lawyer Dean Tobin said the trees, believed to date from the 1950s, were hardly "tane mahuta" and cutting them down was "not the end of the world".
"No-one knows who planted them," he said.
"They are causing a nuisance to the neighbours."
Barrister Gordon Paine, representing Mrs Evans, said the trees were part of the streetscape and fell under a policy requiring the council to consult with the community on their removal. However Mr Tobin argued the trees could not be part of the streetscape because they were in an area designated a "pocket park". The size of the park was about 1600sqm, "not a huge expanse", considering sequoias, or redwoods, could live to 1000 years and grow quite large.
He pointed out that in the hearings for the Balclutha Reserve Management Plan in 2016 and 2017 no-one asked for the trees to be protected. Justice Nation reserved his ruling, and said the injunction would continue in the interim. Mrs Evans, who had a number of supporters in the community, said after the court case there were "just a small handful of sequoias" in the district and it was disappointing the council had not sat down to discuss the situation with residents.
"We felt that our opinions were dismissed."
Mr Cadogan said going to the High Court over reserve management was a first for the Clutha District Council, which he believed had acted "honorably and in good faith".