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Tree vandalism at Sacred Grove still a mystery

Flagstaff Team

Feedback from the community is being examined in pursuit of those responsible for damaging trees at Sacred Grove / Te Uru Tapu overlooking Takapuna Beach.

The damage on the protected reserve in front of apartments at the north end of the beach was discovered by council arborists during a routine inspection in late September.

Various native species were chopped down, including a tree around five metres tall. Drill holes indicated poisoning of others. In all, interference to 14 trees and additional shrubs has been established, including four trees that were likely poisoned.

“Sadly, it is unlikely any of the damaged trees will survive as they have either been cut at ground level or declined beyond recovery,” said Auckland Council’s Regional Arborists and Ecological Manager, David Stejskal.

The grove’s precious beachfront pohutukawa were apparently unscathed, but Stejskal told the Observer officials feared they might be targeted in future.

Police have been advised of the vandalism. Stejskal said investigations were continuing. This had included letters dropped to residents at 47 The Strand (The Sands) and 7 The Promenade (The Rocks) seeking assistance with any information they may have.

The Sands body corporate had also been asked for any CCTV footage it may have. “At this stage we cannot speculate or say why the damage has occurred,” said Stejskal. It is not the first time trees in the area have been damaged, with the most recent case being in January this year.

“A lot of effort has gone into protecting the trees in Te Uru Tapu, so our arborist was extremely disappointed when he made this discovery,” said Stejskal.

In terms of next steps, he said the investigation would continue and the council officers would speak with mana whenua before any decisions were made about replanting or removal of damaged trees.

The Sacred Grove has been fenced off to the public for three years. Its boardwalk was a popular passage for beach walkers at high tide. After council staff recommended the area stay closed, a petition was launched, which drew 2513 signatures calling for its reopening.

The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board has asked council staff to report back on further options for the area.

Council staff reported in June that the fragility of the trees – a number of which require propping and wiring to stay upright – and the cultural significance of the area meant it should remain closed. A lookout closer to The Promenade could be kept open.

Staff recommended the boardwalk be dismantled, citing its poor condition, costly repairs and the likely inability to gain planning consent for any rebuilding, partly due to the area’s cultural significance.

Mana whenua historically used the trees to hang wrapped bodies prior to their burial.

Darby hopes grove gets wider recognition

North Shore councillor Chris Darby hopes a wider recognition of the Sacred Grove’s preciousness may emerge in the wake of the “reckless destruction” there.

“Maybe we can all learn from this,” he told the Observer. “Many people will see the stunning natural environment, but it’s substantially more than that,” he said. “That sort of vandalism is not just an attack on very significant trees, but they have enormous cultural significance as well.”

Apartment dwellers were among those who were really upset, he said. “They are good people who have always looked out for the Sacred Grove.”

Asked what he thought should happen in terms of the grove’s future, Darby said it was a matter that fell under local-board jurisdiction, but he expected advice to the board would have taken full account of environmental and cultural matters.

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