Did council arborists cut a tree down as act of retribution?

GONE: Graham Pilgrim’s photo shows where the Cherry Blossom tree used to be. Photo supplied.

Council workers who were asked to prune a tree instead cut it down after an apparent “cheeky” exchange with a concerned resident.

It prompted the resident Graham Pilgrim to contact the Howick Local Board.

A strongly worded letter addressed to Local Board members from Mr Pilgrim, president of the East Park Resident’s Association, Golflands, got Peter Young, the newly elected board member of the Botany subdivision, wanting to nip the problem in the bud.

The very next day Mr Young knocked on Mr Pilgrim’s door.

Mr Pilgrim was livid that a cherry blossom tree in full bloom standing outside his home in East Park had been chopped down.

Talking to the Times, Mr Pilgrim narrates the sequence of events.

“It was a wet October afternoon that I spotted the council arborists pruning trees around the East Park area.”

Later in the day Mr Pilgrim approached the arborists and asked them to prune the cherry blossom tree outside his home, “that had some deadwood on the top”.

“And seeing that they were parked on the yellow line, I may have cheekily pointed it out to them,” he said.

In response to the pruning request Mr Pilgrim was told that the tree will be pruned “in accordance with council’s specifications”.

“I was being a little flippant and said ‘so is the mayor going to come and check the specifications?’”

In hindsight he admits: “I may have incited it. It may be retribution.”

“Within minutes of our conversation they were outside my home pruning branches and before I realised what had happened, they had chopped off the entire tree,” he said.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what they had just done that considering the lower branches appeared healthy, and in full bloom,” he says.

On realising how upset Mr Pilgrim was, Mr Young thought the best way to solve the problem would be to gift him a new cherry blossom tree.

“Coincidentally, I had bought seven cherry blossom trees for my garden, and had a spare one,” says Mr Young.

“I suggested the idea at the Howick Local Board meeting so that we can quickly resolve the problem and move on.

“Given the current situation, Graham has to wait for a year (until next season’s planting) and the tree which would cost $30 would probably cost the council $300.”

Mr Pilgrim responded: “While I do appreciate Mr Young dropping in to find out how he can help, we have to follow council procedure and wait for one more year. ”

Ross Webster, acting team leader operational management and maintenance at Auckland Council told Mr Pilgrim in a letter that the tree in question was assessed by a contracted arborist and found to be in “serious decline and partially dead”.

“As you said in your email, the top branches were dead which is a very bad sign in any tree. The amount of bloom on the tree would have been in direct response to the stress it was under,” Mr Webster said.

“Unfortunately in these cases it is best to remove the tree completely. In most circumstances trees that are removed will be replaced.”

By: Farida Master