Commentary: Tree troubles rile residents in Northfield Road

The 26 February Nor’West News features the story of Northfield Road residents seeking removal of a tree outside their property. The article notes issues with fallen branches, power outages, ruptured concrete and a damaged fence.

Northfield tree 1

I frequently run along tree-lined Northfield Road, usually in the early morning. More than once I’ve stumbled on pavement that has been pushed up and cracked by tree roots. This seems to be an issue right along the road – not just outside any one house. The pre-dawn trip hazard of the uneven surface is compounded by deep shadows cast due to the trees blocking street lighting.

Northfield 1
Northfield Road

There have been multiple repairs along the Northfield Rd footpaths in recent years. It seems to me that there’s a bigger issue than one unhealthy or unstable tree.

The Council may need to consider how to manage trees right along this street. In my experience, Northfield Road is one of our more extreme examples of nature vs pavement (although adjacent Brogar Place has some similar issues).

Brogar 1
Brogar Place

I wonder how a this situation has arisen – is it a poor choice of trees, or something about the soil or how the trees developed, that has kept roots so close to the surface? What is the long term outlook for the state of the footpaths, as well as impacts on underground services and pedestrians?

Importantly, how are residents right along the street, and pedestrians who use it, being impacted? What is the overall view of the immediate community?

My sense is that as a community we value nature, including roadside trees. In November 2017 our Council surveyed residents’ views on trees and urban forests. That survey was intended to inform a Council plan, although as far as I can tell findings from the survey haven’t been published, and nor has even a draft plan.

Trees were also mentioned positively in Think Papanui’s ‘what do you love about Papanui’ promotion in 2017.

Our Council does list the ways our community benefits from the city’s trees. Quite rightly, it’s a long list, encompassing the environmental, economic, and social.

In Northfield Road, is something more than repeated footpath patch-ups needed? As Papanui Councillor Mike Davidson is quoted as saying in the same Nor’West News article – “You can’t just simply chop down a tree”. Council’s thinking needs to extend beyond just the one tree in question and instead consider the whole-street issues.

Question for readers

Are you affected by the state of the footpaths in Northfield Road (or elsewhere)? What’s the best approach to balance the positive benefits of the trees vs the impact on footpaths, services, and ultimately of course people?

%d bloggers like this: