Residents aghast trees in mature native forest in Upper Hutt being felled

Residents of Katherine Mansfield Dr in Whitemans Valley were told via email on Monday evening that work would start on Tuesday to remove part of an old-growth beech forest on a council road reserve. The project aims to widen the road leading to a new housing development.

“These trees are irreplaceable – there’s nothing like them in the world. They’re hundreds of years old, and they’re part of an ecosystem that stretches back here… more than 20 hectares. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

The trees are adjacent to forest on Bailey’s property which he is in the process of protecting under the QEII Trust.

Paul Paino, another resident, said the low-land podocarp forest is a unique part of the region. “It’s the remnants of a forest that’s been here thousands of years.”

Plans included in the email show the existing single-lane, metal road is to be replaced with a sealed, two-lane road. It’s unclear how many trees would be cut down, but a map supplied by contractors shows between 30 and 40 trees marked out.

The Upper Hutt City Council’s report acknowledged residents’ wishes to keep the trees, but said the decision lay with the councils’ roading team, and no notification was needed.

Discussions about the trees had been ongoing for more than two years, and both Bailey and Paino said communication had been poor. While meetings had taken place, they said information had to be prised from the council or contractors.

“The first time we heard about what trees were being taken out was [Monday night]. The contractor was here to start digging up the [existing] road arrived before the email. That says it all, really.”

Josh Bailey outside his property at Whitemans Valley where the Upper Hutt City Council have approved work that will destroy part of a Beech forest.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF
Josh Bailey outside his property at Whitemans Valley where the Upper Hutt City Council have approved work that will destroy part of a Beech forest.

Bailey said council consultation had been “a fiction”.

“There’s been a heavy-handedness and arrogance through all of this.”

Councillor Tracey Ultra was disappointed work was starting before the issue could be discussed at the meeting.

“I suspect due process had been followed, but we do have a sustainability strategy, which has not been taken into account.

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