Tauranga City Council is investigating the deliberate poisoning of a Totara tree on a private property in the Matua area.
Council says the poisoned tree was first noticed in June last year, when the Totara tree was ‘browning off’. ‘Browning off’ of the leaves is usually a sign that something traumatic has occurred, causing physiological changes to the tree.
“Poisoning attempts include several drill holes around the tree’s base, with traces of herbicide and a strong diesel odour being found,” said Council’s Director of Spaces and Places, Paul Dunphy.
He said since these discoveries, actions were taken to reverse as much damage as possible to the native tree.
“It had put on some new growth, but in October 2021, it was observed that the tree was declining further.”
Mr Dunphy said both Council and the property owners were dismayed over the poisoning attack. He said investigations to find the perpetrators were ongoing.
“People poison trees for various reasons, with outcomes often relating to things that will benefit them, commonly these include issues with views, light or debris/leaf fall.”
“The act of wilful damage to public tree assets is unfortunately far too common, with these actions involving the use of herbicide, unsanctioned pruning or actual removal of street or reserve trees.
“Unfortunately, this incident isn’t the first time Council has dealt with the poisoning of trees around Tauranga, and often this is where someone has taken matters into their own hands for selfish reasons,” says Mr Dunphy.
These actions can lead to enforcement action under the Resource Management Act 1991, he said.
“Tall trees provide a safe roosting place for birds, and the need is increasing as Tauranga harbour beaches get developed.
“Once that habitat is gone, it’s gone forever.”
White-faced herons, Tui, and Royal Spoonbill are just some of the wildlife residing in Matua that could be facing a loss of habitat due to the protected native Totara tree being poisoned.
“Tall native trees, whether they’re on Council land or private property, provide a resource for all the community and enhance Tauranga’s biodiversity.”
“This particular Totara is just one of the many trees that are protected in the City Plan. Such trees are part of Council’s natural heritage and are considered worthy of protection.”
Once listed in the City Plan, the tree is protected through provisions under the Resource Management Act 1991. These provisions enable Council to take enforcement action where an offence has occurred. This can result in penalties of up to two years imprisonment or a fine up to $300,000 for an individual.
If anyone has any information about the person(s) involved, get in touch via email at EMAC@tauranga.govt.nz