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Action on notable poplar tree aims to preserve and make safe

frimly poplar

At more than 150 years old, the Populus Deltoids poplar tree in Frimley Park is showing signs of its age, making this notable tree a potential risk to the safety of park visitors.

After strong winds raised concerns about the tree’s condition in September this year, and a routine inspection noted increased decay, the tree was cordoned off and independent arborists were engaged by Hastings District Council to assess how much of a risk it was, and how best to manage the aging and declining tree.

The arborists noted it had developed some vertical cracks in the trunk, some decay of the tree roots, and a large lateral branch was in declining health, increasing the probability of a failure that could cause harm to park visitors in the fall zone.

Ten per cent of the tree’s canopy was removed in 2018 to help improve its safety and lifespan, and after considering the best options to remediate the situation, the recommended course of action is to remove a further part of the canopy and reduce the height of the tree by about half (15 to 20 metres).

Hastings councillor, Frimley resident and frequent park visitor Kevin Watkins said while it was sad a part of the tree had to be taken out, council was keen to preserve it, and it was considered too much of a safety risk to not take any action.

“This balances the need to protect the community as well as preserve this tree which is a highly regarded, important landmark for both Frimley Park and the country as recognised with its listing as a notable tree on the New Zealand Tree Register.”

The work, to be undertaken by specialist arborists, is likely to take place on November 12 and 13, weather permitting, and will require two cranes to be on site to safely reduce the tree’s canopy.

After the tree is reduced, the current fence that surrounds it may be extended to prevent people from potentially endangering themselves by getting too close.

Regular monitoring of the tree will include checking its uprightness, general health and what’s happening to the cracks in the trunk, and every year a specialist arborist will conduct a full tree inspection.

Despite its reduction in height, the tree (also known as American cottonwood, necklace poplar or black poplar) will still hold the title of having the largest girth of any tree in Hastings’ public parks and reserves, at 10.17 metres.

While the poplar is declining and will one day need full removal, 12 years ago a former council arborist had planted three poplars from the parent tree, ensuring the DNA continued in Frimley Park.

All three were planted close to the parent plant and a decision on which would be specifically nurtured as a replacement would be made in the future. 

30 October 2020

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