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Chainsaw attack on Henley oaks

The Avenue of Oaks was planted by the Rotary Club of Masterton about 18 years ago. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Memorial trees felled in dead of night, community stumped

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A “mindless” and “disrespectful” act of vandalism in the dead of night at Henley Lake has angered the Masterton community.

Someone used a chainsaw to hack down four trees that were planted as part of an ‘Avenue of Oaks’ in memory of Rotarian Gordon Caldwell JP, who died in 2001.

The trees, planted by the Rotary Club of Masterton about 18 years ago, were to recognise Caldwell’s countless hours of voluntary service to the community.

Rotary Club of Masterton secretary Tom Ward, who is also the chairman of the Henley Trust, said he was incredibly angry and disappointed about the situation.

“I’m gutted. Thousands of hours of volunteering has gone into Henley Lake to make it what it is, and it’s a tragedy because those oaks were beautiful.”

A Te Ore Ore Rd resident who heard a chainsaw start up at about 2am on Saturday said she thought it was an odd time for someone to be doing tree work.

People camping in a van at the lake also heard it.

Four memorial oak trees in Masterton’s Henley Lake reserve were mysteriously felled overnight during the weekend. PHOTO/ANNE-MAREE NIKOLAISON

On Saturday morning, regulars to Henley Lake noticed someone had felled four trees and left a “mess”.

Chris Fraei said she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“The actual stumps were not cut cleanly, we could see straight away that it was vandalism and it’s just dreadful.

“All the usual walkers were just standing around talking and it was just so depressing.”

She said “everyone felt the same” in that it was a “disrespectful” and “awful” act.

On Sunday in the hot sun, children played, and families picnicked under the remaining oaks that made up the avenue, near the Te Ore Ore Rd lake entrance.

A couple of environmental contractors, who did not want to be named, said it was “thoughtless and destructive vandalism”.

“It’s absolutely disgusting, and the trees provided beautiful shade – it’s ruined the whole concept of the area.”

Wairarapa Treescaping were called in to clean up the felled trees, which were left at the scene.

Company director James Sokalski said the offender had been blatant and had “made a mess” of the oaks.

“The cuts in the trees were bloody shocking.

Rotary Club of Masterton secretary Tom Ward, who is also the chairman of the Henley Trust, with Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson at the vandalism site on Sunday. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

“It clearly wasn’t someone who knew what they were doing.”

He said the trees had been in good condition.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said it was a real tragedy.

“It’s mindless vandalism.

“Why would anybody in their right mind want to do that?

“It’s really disappointing and I just can’t fathom why anybody would want to destroy those trees – it beggars belief.”

On average 700 people visit Henley Lake each day of the year.

Patterson said the reserve was a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike.

“The community will be devastated by this.

“We want the offenders caught, and full reparation will be sought.”

A fifth tree, on Church St, was also mysteriously felled the same night.

A police media spokesperson confirmed police received reports of both incidents around 2am.

The “large” Church St tree had been blocking the road.

She said police attended but were unable to locate the offenders.

Wairarapa police area commander, Inspector Scott Miller said police would be investigating.

Anyone with information can report it anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The fellings come after the arson of the Henley Lake watchtower, and the vandalism of another Rotary project, in which road signs were ripped down at the Rotary Club of Masterton South’s children’s’ cycle park near Masterton’s northern roundabout.

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