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Row erupts over Kauri tree felling

Published: 7:16PM Monday November 05, 2007 Source: ONE News

Northland's Waipoua Forest Trust is outraged at the Department of Conservation after it felled a 600-year-old kauri tree. 
The kauri tree was involved in a major dispute between DOC, local iwi, and the Forest Trust after the department contacted local iwi and sought permission to cut it down as part of a road widening.

It had initially agreed to build a protection wall for the tree but decided against it after safety issues arose.

The iwi, who was fully informed, is not happy about the chop and says it is the result of a quick decision. 

And, the trust in charge of the forest claims a pact to protect the tree was ignored.

"They reneged on that agreement and cut it down with out inspection from qualified person," says Stephen King of the Waipoua Forest Trust.

DOC is standing strong - saying the fell was vital because the tree's foundations were unstable after heavy rain and road works.

"The issue of safety was more important in this case...The tree possibly falling and killing someone," says DOC spokesperson Steve Goddard.

But King says every kauri tree in the forest is worth fighting for and disagrees with DOC about the tree's foundation being unstable.

"I think there was an over emphasis in paranoia, and perceived safety issues. Those decisions should be made by a person who understands the stability of a tree, not from a bureaucrat in an office," says Stephen King.

DOC maintains its decision was based on the advice of an expert.

"We needed to fell the tree to ensure the public and staff remained safe," says Goddard

Local iwi is laying claim to any salvageable wood but King wants the evidence left, so an independent assessor can determine what should have happened to the once mighty kauri.