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Iconic tree vandalised

An iconic tree on Masterton Castlepoint Rd was cut with a chainsaw and left to stand before it fell on Sunday. PHOTOS/ELI HILL

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It served as a Rugby World Cup flagpole and was one of Wairarapa’s most iconic Christmas features – but “vandals’ with a chainsaw turned the Masterton Castlepoint Rd pine tree into a life-threatening hazard.

For about eight years, a wilding pine growing on council-owned road reserve had been decorated at Christmas by arborist Kevin Silvester.

Silvester also used the tree to track the world cup progress, flying the winning countries’ flags during the cup.

However, on Sunday, just after 3pm, the 20-metre tree came toppling down over the Masterton Castlepoint Rd, damaging Bramerton Station fencing at the same time.

Farmers Richard and Sue Hay were returning home from Masterton when the tree crashed down across the road about 20 metres in front of them.

They managed to stop before hitting the tree, which was blocking both lanes, Richard said.

“The tree had definitely been cut with a chainsaw, there was sawdust.

“Afterwards I went and got the tractor and pushed it to the side of the road – we had the traffic moving again by 3.30pm, but it was very dangerous.”

Richard said he’d talked to the police about it.

There had been plenty of distraught people after the felling of the tree, Silvester said.

“I couldn’t believe that – that they’d cut it and left it. I mean that could’ve fallen on the school bus or anyone. As an arborist, I wouldn’t do that.

“Someone obviously doesn’t have any Christmas spirit. I’m on the verge of ringing the police because that’s on the verge of a manslaughter charge.”

Before the cutting, each morning, children on the school bus would have a competition to see who could spot the tree first, Silvester said.

“I was going to decorate it this Friday for the kids, but I guess not now. It’s not just the kids, tourists, everyone loved it.”

The cuts that were made appeared to have been done by an amateur.

“It’s gutting for the community. Someone must know who did it.”

Masterton District Council was appalled by the vandalism, manager of assets and operations David Hopman said.

The council, whose road reserve the tree was growing on, had received reports the tree had been cut on both sides, apparently to deliberately weaken it.

“Had the tree hit anyone, or a vehicle, the result could easily have been fatal.”

Hopman said council contractors Higgins cleared the site, and anyone with information on the incident should contact the police.

The council is also looking into the matter.

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