Time up for Lawrence poplars

Lawrence community board member Brent Taylor with the Lombardy poplars that line State Highway 8...
Lawrence community board member Brent Taylor with the Lombardy poplars that line State Highway 8 at Lawrence. The trees will be felled by the end of summer. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
A familiar welcome to the town of Lawrence will disappear before the end of summer.

The corridor of 27 Lombardy poplars on State Highway 8 at the eastern entrance to the Clutha town would be gone before autumn, but it could be some time before replacement trees were found, Clutha District Councillor Cr Geoff Blackmore said.

''We can't risk the road. That's what's really put the pressure on,'' he said.

Ageing and diseased, the trees were spared for 2011 as the town celebrated its 150th anniversary, but they were no longer worth the risk they posed, Cr Blackmore said.

He said he did not want to see a situation similar to the death of Queenstown man Russell Liggett, killed when a poplar tree on Lower Shotover Rd fell on to his ute on September 14, 2009.

At the inquest into the death the following year, Coroner David Crerar questioned why the tree felling was delayed if the trees posed a danger to life.

A budget of $60,000 for the project had been approved in council's last annual plan, Mr Taylor said.

''All of them are coming down,'' Lawrence Tuapeka Community Board chairman Geoff Davidson said. Lawrence's 27 poplar trees on SH8 and four on Whitehaven St would no longer be championed by the community, he said.

''The community didn't want them taken down at the time of the 150th celebrations. At the time [NZTA] wanted them taken down.''

After discussions that began in 2008, a third of the trees were taken out, he said.

''A couple of them fell down after that.''

The community had changed its mind about the trees' felling, Mr Davidson said.

''They're quite happy to see them go. I think they all understand now that they're unsafe.''

The community board's preferred replacement trees, whitespire birches, were ''a bit hard to come by'', he said, and the community board had been advised the trees might not be replaced for two years.

Clutha District Council chief executive Steve Hill said an advertisement had been placed for the removal of the trees but as yet the contract had not been awarded.

He said it would not delay the project.


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