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Protest to save oak tree

People passionate about saving an oak tree in Featherston, including tree expert Richie Hill, front left holding his son, next to business owners Damien Taylor and Sharyl Skipsey. Claire Bleakley is holding sign front right. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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An oak in Featherston was set to be felled yesterday, but at least one resident says that chaining herself to the tree to stop that is an option.

Claire Bleakley said on Sunday she would be pulling out all the stops to prevent it from being cut down.

“I’ve got some chains and I’m willing to chain myself to the tree.”

Bleakley and other residents who wanted the tree to stay, gathered on Sunday to decorate it for Christmas.

Other residents were set to protest at the St Andrew’s Union Church on Fox St first thing yesterday morning.

The fate of the tree, thought to be up to 100 years old, has divided some community members and the church, which owns the land the tree is on.

The church is cutting down the tree because the small and elderly congregation can no longer afford maintenance costs of keeping the branches and leaves away from powerlines.

Arborist and environmental consultant Richie Hill has offered to maintain the tree at no cost to the church.

But Hill’s offer was declined, with St Andrew’s Union Church parish supervisor the Reverend Paul Rogers saying “we can’t legally get them to do it . . . they are not authorised by Powerco to do it”.

But Wairarapa Treescaping, who Hill would have employed for the job, is in one of Powerco’s approved tree contractors.

Jill Moon said her ancestors had a long history of planting trees in Featherston and to think that a healthy oak was to be felled was “ludicrous”.

She said it appeared to have become a case of “stubbornness” on the church’s behalf.

However, the Rev Rogers said: “It’s our tree, on our property, and we’re not breaking any laws. It’s no different than if you cut down a lemon tree in your yard, except people have got emotional.”

Bleakley compared the proposed felling with “euthanising your grandfather because he’s in the way”.

Dave Irons, who served on Featherston beautification groups during the 1990s, said the tree would never be cut down if it was in Martinborough or Greytown.

“I really hope they don’t cut it down, we don’t have many nice trees.”

Featherston Business Association spokesman Damien Taylor said the tree was planted decades before the powerlines were installed, and it was a piece of the town’s heritage.

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