The three pohutukawa trees believed to have been poisoned in the Riversdale Beach township. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

BECKIE WILSON

[email protected]

An investigation has begun into the suspected poisoning of three pohutukawa trees near the entrance to the beachside town of Riversdale.

The death of the 30-year-old street trees has devastated members of the community and Masterton District Council, who say the suspected act of poisoning was “selfish”.

Council chief executive Pim Borren believed the poisoning was a deliberate act.

Riversdale Ratepayers’ Association president Bill Roberts and former Riversdale resident Paul Bodle were both shocked that someone would damage the well-maintained trees in the village on purpose.

Mr Borren said the council was awaiting a final report by an arborist to confirm the poisoning before involving police.

There are many pohutukawa trees at Riversdale Beach and all thrive in the conditions, therefore there was no other obvious reason for the trees to have died, he said.

The incident comes a year after a Riversdale homeowner and a contractor were caught by council staff trimming branches off seven pohutukawa trees in the beach’s Southern Reserve.

“That was an absolutely shocking case of vandalism,” Mr Borren said.

“If someone wanted a tree trimmed then we will consider that but only if it was a safety concern.”

The council will be prosecuting those responsible for trimming the seven trees on the reserve, and the legal process was in motion, Mr Borren said.

Council staff told the contractor to cease work, however they returned to finish the job the next day, he said.

“The trees haven’t been killed, [but] they have been severely cut back just for one person’s self-interest.”

“People can’t take the law into your own hands . . . just for the sake of someone getting a [better] view from the property,” Mr Borren said.

Mr Bodle, who is also a horticulturist, said it looked like someone had poisoned the three dead trees with a “strong brew” of herbicide.

While it was reassuring for Mr Bodle that the council was investigating the cases, he said a better system needed to be in place for residents to discuss issues with the town’s trees.

In a “young development” like Riversdale beach, it was possible that trees could be an obstruction for some properties.

But the three that were poisoned could have been transplanted, he said.

Mr Roberts said he was devastated by the damage to the trees in at the Southern Reserve.

“[But] we are really disappointed it has taken the council a year and almost no action has been taken.”

And he was “shocked” that someone would have deliberately poisoned the trees.

Under the Native Plants Protection Act it is an offence “take” any protected native plant that is growing on any Crown land, or in any State forest land or public reserve, or on any road or street, or who, without the consent.

To “take” is defined as gathering, plucking, cutting, pulling up, destroying, digging up, removing, or injuring the native plant.

Last week, an Auckland property developer was sentenced to two and a half months imprisonment after the felling and damage he caused to six pohutukawa trees and one totara tree on his piece of land.

The Auckland Council attempted to stop the felling, and issued an abatement notice, however he continued with the work.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of using land in contravention of the Resource Management Act

There was a similar case of pohutukawa tree poisoning in Paraparaumu last year which saw the loss of six mature trees to poisoning.

Ministry of Environment spokesperson said enforcement of the law was in the hands of district councils.