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Vandals doom old tree to slow death

The days are numbered for a large oak tree that visitors to Masterton’s skatepark often seek out for shade, thanks to an unidentified member of the public ripping the bark off its trunk.

The tree, which stands with several others surrounding the site at Queen Elizabeth Park, recently had over a metre of bark stripped off all the way around its trunk – an act called ringbarking.

Masterton District Council general manager for the community Corin Haines confirmed that the tree is an oak and said that it has been the victim of a “pointless act of vandalism”.

“Trees in our parks are there for the enjoyment of the whole community, not to mention their benefit from a climate point of view,” Haines said.

“To lose one in this way is just sad.”

Haines said that the tree will be removed in due course.

Dave Penman, owner of local arborist business Urban Tree Works, estimated that the tree is over 100 years old.

He said the ringbarking – or stripping the outer layer, called the cambium – means that the tree in question is no longer able to transfer nutrients up from the ground.

“It’s a slow death,” Penman said.

“It will start to go into shock and show signs of stress, with splits and cracks forming and loss of colour.”

Having observed ringbarked trees in the past, Penman said that sometimes, with regular inspections, they can live for quite a while before needing removal.

“But if it’s at risk of falling on a structure or harming somebody, you’d definitely want to remove it sooner rather than later.”

Penman said it is the first time he had seen a tree in a public setting being subjected to ringbarking.

“There are some strange people out there.”

Another local arborist [who preferred to remain anonymous] said the tree would be much more difficult to remove once dead – “It’s harder to climb, and it’s more fragile and unpredictable” – and that ringbarking isn’t a practical way to remove a tree in any context.

Both arborists agreed the incident is a great shame.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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