Tree theft desecration: Nobby Clark

Mayor Nobby Clark in Esk St, which is part of an inner city upgrade he feels is buoying...
Mayor Nobby Clark. Photo: Gregor Richardson/ODT files
The theft of 40 shrubs and trees planted to welcome new citizens to Invercargill has been called "a desecration" by Mayor Nobby Clark.

The trees were planted at Fossbender Park in September last year by participants in the Invercargill City Council’s Welcoming Communities programme to celebrate immigrants, former refugees, international students and newcomers to the city.

The council was made aware by one of the ceremony’s participants the trees had been stolen over the Christmas holiday.

The participant had been visiting the planted trees frequently, and was upset to discover they were missing.

Mr Clark said it was his gut-feeling that the plants had not been targeted due to the celebration of newcomers, though it was "a desecration" nonetheless.

"It’s a really nice gesture that people plant a tree when they get citizenship ... It’s a little bit like they’re putting a bit of a stake in the ground in belonging to our country. So for some toerag or group to come and take them out — I’m guessing there’s two potential people that would do that; those that oppose immigrants, and I think that’s disgusting if that’s the case, or somebody that just thought that there was an ideal opportunity for some free plants, because plants aren’t all that cheap," he said.

"If I was the person that planted them, I would feel a bit down about that. It would be natural to think that maybe there’s a bit of a target by somebody that didn’t welcome immigrants, which I hope is not the case in our city, it’s certainly not in our country. A bit annoyed about that."

Invercargill City Council parks and recreation manager Caroline Rain said it was a shame to see the trees damaged as they were planted as part of a ceremony that was very special to many people and symbolised them setting down roots in Invercargill.

"All the trees were ecologically sourced and grown from seed from Sandy Point. Each tree has a nominal value of $15. However, replacement of them will mean starting again from the seed source, gathering, propagating and care until they reach a size able to be planted, which will take about two years."

In October last year, six of nine trees planted by volunteers at a community orchard were stolen and replanted by volunteers, with the replanted trees being subsequently stolen again.

With the price of food, fuel, power, rents and mortgages, all rising people are stretched, Mr Clark said.

"When you’ve got the impact that we’ve got on the community at the moment around cost of living ... I guess people are squeezed a little bit. If you asked the police, they’d probably say that puts more opportunity in front of people to do some dishonest things that they may not have done in a healthy economic environment."

Plants stolen were Hebe salicifoliaPittosporum tenuifoliumCortaderia richardii (toetoe), Cordyline australis (cabbage tree) and Aristotelia serrata (wineberry or makomako).