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Tales from Tawa: Trees

Eve-Marie Wilson is determined to battle against chainsaw-happy council boffins, and anyone else, who tries to get rid of trees in her neighbourhood.

"Trees are a valuable resource in the fight against climate change because they absorb such air pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from the atmosphere. They also cleanse the soil by filtering sewage and animal waste and absorbing chemical pollutants,'' says doughty crusader Eve-Marie.

To read more of her words on other subjects please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/tales_from_tawa/

One of the reasons I chose to live in my present home was because of the beautiful trees in the vicinity. The view from the lounge was of a copse of stately Pinus Radiata, all reaching 100 feet towards the sky. From the kitchen window, I was presented with a row of century old Macrocarapa.

With such beauty all around me my contentment was complete. This was not to last. Several months after moving in, the powers that be in the City Council, decided in their wisdom it was an offence to the eyes’ of the citizens of Wellington to view any tree not native to New Zealand. The Pinus Radiata had to go. On the day of the trees’ demise, I watched sadly as the view from my lounge window changed forever. Granted, the council replaced the trees they had felled with native seedlings, but they have never tended them and they are now being strangled by weeds.

I took heart in the fact I still had from my kitchen window, a wall of green tinged with yellow provided by the Macrocarpa, but a few months after the Pinus Radiata came down a property developer bought the house next door. I felt sure he would take down the Macrocarpa so I tried to have a preservation order put on them. This was to no avail. Despite the fact these trees were probably among the first in the area to be planted by European settlers, they were not native so according to the council, were not worth saving.

With the support of my neighbours the property developer was approached and asked if he would keep the trees. To our delight he ensured us they were safe. Then one day, for no reason whatsoever, he had his employees randomly hack the branches off one of the trees. It would have been preferable for the tree to have been cut down at the base as I now look at a tortured tree trunk from which sprouts branches amputated at various lengths. Some, not cut through completely, hang there forlornly while they slowly die.

On the roadside near my house is a gnarled old Pohutukawa tree which has for years fought the elements for its existence. Living in this tree is a pair of Tui or New Zealand Parson birds, so known because with their dark plumage and the tuft of white feathers at their throat, they resemble a parson in religious attire.

Each time I pass these birds I am greeted with a cacophony of throaty chortling and chuckling distinctive to the Tui because of its unusual possession of two voice boxes.

The Pohutukawa tree is otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because in December it is bedecked with a magnificent display of crimson flowers. There is a belief in New Zealand, if the Pohutkawa tree flowers before Christmas, the country will experience a long hot summer.

I had thought the Pohutukawa in which these birds had made their home was safe because it was a native, but those chainsaw happy boffins in the council have decided all Pohutukawa have to go as they may be a native to New Zealand, but they are not a native to the Wellington region. Judging from the reaction of most of the residents of Wellington they will have fight on their hands. Already the people of one suburb have managed to save some of these trees destined for eradication.

I am one step ahead in making a home for the Tui should the gnarled Pohutukawa be taken out, as I have planted several Kowhai trees in my garden. These trees, native to New Zealand, display hanging clusters of golden yellow flowers each spring, which provide the nectar on which the Tui love to feed. Being deciduous, the Kowhai loses most of its tiny leaflets immediately after flowering. Even without their leaves and flowers these trees have a beauty of their own, as in inclement weather the raindrops hang on the end of the branches to give the appearance that the tree is bedecked with hundreds of crystal pearls.

Although it is hard to believe, I have already had a neighbour phone and ask that my Kowhai trees be removed because they make too much mess when they lose their leaves. My answer was an emphatic “they are my trees and they are staying where they are.”

It would appear those people who order the unnecessary destruction of trees don’t realize just how essential they are to the existence of humans and every other mammal on the planet as they both produce the oxygen needed for respiration and lock away carbon dioxide, the by-product of respiration.

Furthermore, trees are a valuable resource in the fight against climate change because they absorb such air pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from the atmosphere. They also cleanse the soil by filtering sewage and animal waste and absorbing chemical pollutants.

Apart from helping to keep the planet clean, trees have a myriad of other valuable uses. Their roots bind the soil preventing erosion, and planted strategically, their branches and foliage can muffle noise pollution from motorways and airports, act as windbreaks to reducing the drying effect of the wind on soil and provide shade from the sun.

Every part of a tree is of value to the animal kingdom. Their branches provide a place for birds to nest and their trunks a place for animals to make a home. Their bark provides a place for insects to lay their eggs and food for larvae. The seeds, berries and nuts, and the pollen and nectar from their flowers, provide food for birds, insects and wild animals, and in autumn their leaves provide food for earthworms.

Nor should the aesthetic value of trees be overlooked. Not only can they be used to block out an ugly view and provide privacy, their beauty makes people feel calm and relaxed and contribute to their mental and physical health. Research shows surgical patients whose hospital rooms look out onto a view of trees need less analgesic medication and recover sooner. There have also been studies done which have revealed urban environments with trees have a lower incidence of crime.

It is a simple fact, without trees the earth as we know it would not exist, so don’t wait until Arbour Day, plant a tree now.

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