Retirement Village flags risks posed by towering Redwoods

Kerikeri Retirement Village has once again formally flagged to the Far North District Council its concerns about giant Redwoods on a neighbouring reserve that it says threaten the safety of those who live and work at the Village. It is calling for Council to undertake thorough tests to check the condition of the tree trunks instead of its annual “once over lightly” visual inspections.

Redwoods are a species native to North America. The ones on the Council reserves adjacent to the Village were planted in 1928 by an orchardist, the late Jock Alderton in 1928, and they have grown very quickly in our warmer climate. In North America they survive for hundreds of years but their rapid growth in the Far North has left them weak and vulnerable.

“Our understanding is that they are not in great health,” said Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter. “When we felled six of them on our apartment site a few years ago the predicted excellent timber turned out to be rotten throughout.”

One of the trees on the Council-owned reserves has already collapsed and was removed by arborists. And another shed a large branch several years ago which fell directly into a room in the Village’s Robinson hospital wing which was vacant at the time.

The Village wants the Redwoods removed and replaced with a mix of native and citrus trees planted in memory of former residents of Kerikeri Retirement Village and of Mr Alderton, who planted the first citrus orchards here.

“We understand the affection that many people in our community have for the stands of Redwoods on our boundary,” Ms Sumpter said. “We’re fond of them too. However, we’re even more fond of the people who live in our Care Facility and work in our Village. We would hate to see one or more of these lovely people killed or injured if one of these fine old trees was at last to yield to the elements.”

The Village has been requesting for at least six years that Council undertake invasive Level 3 tests on the health of the trees. It understands that Council staff have been instructed to do so but the latest report they commissioned was, once again, a Level 1 “once over lightly” visual inspection that concluded only that the trees exhibited ‘reduced level of vigour and dead tops.’

“Council must acknowledge its responsibility for preventing these trees from causing injury and damage in our community,” Ms Sumpter said. “That’s why we call on Council, once again, to undertake a Level 3 test on these trees to better understand its liability regarding the safety of our residents in their adjacent homes. And of our staff, visitors, suppliers and all others who work and pass under these trees on a daily basis.”

Ms Sumpter understands that, following the Village’s latest representation to Council, a Level 3 assessment of the Redwoods is “finally” being arranged for the end of April. But Council staff are first calling for a site visit so that community board members and councillors can “agree what trees need to be tested” and have “discussions with experts”.


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