Councillor angered by tree felling

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Sad park visit .. Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon, left, with Keith Harris, of Rangiora, and ECan councillor Grant Edge, of Fernside, during a meeting at the site where 500 trees were recently felled in the Ashley Rakahuri Regional Park near Rangiora. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

A Fernside-based councillor with Environment Canterbury is angry that the regional council felled 500 trees in Rangiora’s Ashley Rakahuri Regional Park without consultation.

The trees were felled last month by ECan’s river engineering team during flood mitigation work, without consultation with the community, the district council, the Rangiora-Ashley Community Board, the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee, or ECan councillors.

The loss of the trees sparked an outcry from the community.

“I want to share my absolute anger with the community at the loss of these trees which have provided a well-liked shaded woodland landscape and recreational facility for a very long time,” Cr Grant Edge said.

“There has been a terrible breakdown in communication channels between the regional council and the district council and the community.”

This was not how the new democratically elected environment council, under chairwoman Jenny Hughey and new chief executive Dr Stefanie Rixecker, wanted to work, Cr Edge said.

“What has happened here is not following the strategic pathway of the new council.”

He plans to seek a review of the procedure leading up to the removal of the trees to ensure better outcomes in the future.

Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon has also expressed disappointment that the trees were felled without consultation.

He wants a moratorium preventing further tree-felling at the park in order “to work through issues of concern”. He also plans to meet ECan officials within the next two weeks to discuss the issue, specifically to determine if opportunities exist for replanting, how the community might be involved with that, and how the mess left by the tree-felling will be cleaned up.

“We can’t stop what has happened to the trees but we must learn from it and do better in the future,” Mr Gordon said.

Rangiora resident Keith Harris, who has written to Environment Minister David Parker about the issue, has called the removal of the trees “vandalism”. He has also been invited to attend the meeting.

Waimakariri Water Zone Committee chairman Michael Blackwell, of Kaiapoi, said he was “bitterly disappointed” over the loss of the trees.

“There has been a lack of consultation, with the end result that nobody in the community has had an opportunity to share their voice.

“There has to be some kind of middle ground, and consultation with the Water Zone Committee is an important link in that process.”