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Tree decision divides town

Alan Fielding is against the St Andrew’s Union Church’s decision to fell a healthy oak in Featherston. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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The decision to fell a healthy oak tree in Featherston is being met with protest.

Tree expert Alan Fielding is so upset with the St Andrew’s Union Church’s choice to bring the tree down, he says he is prepared to go to court to get an injunction to stop the felling.

Fielding, a former university teacher who has a background in horticultural science and landscape architecture, is calling for a public meeting to have the matter resolved in a way that the tree survives.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the church,” he said.

“I just can’t for the life of me understand how they can praise God’s creation and then cut it down.”

The church authorities decided to get rid of the oak because paying for maintenance to keep the branches away from the power lines was a financial burden on the small and elderly congregation.

Parish supervisor the Reverend Paul Rogers said last week the church would be liable if the tree brought down power lines or caused an accident.

Greytown-based arborist Richie Hill said the tree was young and healthy, with hundreds of years of life still in it, and he offered to maintain it for free both now and in future.

But the church declined his invitation.

Fielding said Hill was one the best arborists around, and the church was silly to turn down his generous offer.

He said the decision to bring down a tree should only be made by someone with botanical training or background.

Featherston was thin on the ground when it came to large trees, the most effective method of absorbing carbon dioxide.

“A lot of people think that heritage is just simply buildings and man-made structures, be it Maori or Pakeha.

“But there are natural pieces of heritage too – landscapes, trees, and other plants.

“And goodness gracious me, haven’t we lost enough of the heritage in this country?”

Fielding is a community adviser on the Masterton District Council tree committee and is a member of the Wairarapa branch of Heritage New Zealand.

The date for the public meeting is yet to be set.


  1. Mr Fielding is right, we need to preserve our heritage and that means our iconic heritage trees. Thank you for your stand, Mr Feilding.

  2. Fully agree with Allan , this is not the first church congregation making such a decision, a over 200 year old native tree was once felled in Lower Hutt and in Masterton a lovely European beech has gone, no natural shade any more…one really wonders when decisions like this are made…it’s actually still the idea that man and nature are two different things. …a sad way of seeing the world indeed….

  3. While I live in Wellington, I have long family connections with the Wairarapa. While Featherston has in the past not been looked on with quite the favour enjoyed by Greytown or Martinborough, it has recently become much more interesting. That is partly through a realisation that its history and character and its proximity to forested ranges really are attractive features that enhance its appearance and livability. Part of a town’s personality derives from the presence of large old trees that speak of permanence and tradition, and this oak is a fine example of such a tree.
    i must confess to being surprised that a church should fail to value the presence of a historic tree that, as someone has observed ought to have strong religious symbolism for believers.
    I must urge the church authorities to pay attention to pleas and to accept the generous offer of a local arborist who is prepared to look after it for nothing. There is nothing disgraceful about bowing to the urgings of fellow citizens (and others, like me) to change your mind; that is the real mark of a civilised, spiritual and humane being.

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