10 Apr 2013

Protest over felling of ancient tree

8:07 am on 10 April 2013

Conservation groups and local Maori on the West Coast are calling the felling of an ancient tree environmental vandalism.

In July last year a huge kahikatea tree, estimated to be more than 500 years old, was cut down by the Department of Conservation (DoC) so it could extend an adjacent tramping hut.

The Buller Conservation Group, tangata whenua from the West Coast, deerstalkers and conservationists from around New Zealand held a tangi for the tree on the site where it stood at the weekend.

A spokesperson for Kahikatea Kaitiaki, a roopu (group) which formed at the event, Iri Sinclair, says the group is appalled the tree was cut down without consultation.

She believes extending the old Mokihinui Forks hut and building a new hut just 15 minutes walk away made the removal of the kahikatea illogical.

Ms Sinclair says it was an act of desecration to chop part of the tree up into firewood and stack it in one of the new sheds at the site.

DoC's Buller area manager, Bob Dixon, says the tree had to be felled because it was a significant public safety risk to users of the upgraded hut and to anyone camping nearby.

He acknowledged part of the timber was cut up into firewood, but said this was standard practice.

Mr Dixon says there was no imperative to consult anybody about the kahikatea as its felling was a DoC managerial decision, and such decisions are carried out daily throughout New Zealand.