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Christchurch City Council Media Release

Response to Christchurch Press Editorial 18 June 1997


Councillor Denis O’Rourke

Chairman City Services Committee


Fourteen lime trees will soon flank Worcester St between Cathedral Square and Manchester St. Continuing the award-winning avenue design along Worcester Boulevard, they replace the four large trees recently removed by the City Council.

The Press criticised the Council for removing three plane trees and a Chinese elm near the Old Government Building, and questioned the reasoning for doing so. (Editorial, 18 June 1997).

Removing the trees during the current redevelopment of Worcester St East was the only responsible option available to the Council.

The three plane trees, because of their potential size, were outgrowing their location. With trunks likely to reach more than 3m in diameter and a crown measuring 30m in diameter, they would threaten both the fabric and foundations of the adjacent Old Government Building.

Trees were already cracking the footpath and would eventually damage the paved road and crowd the 20m wide street. For an indication of sheer size, just look at the majestic plane trees by the Cathedral.

Planted up to just 1.5m from the Old Government Building, the plane trees were forced to lean out and were becoming increasingly distorted. Some of the trees also appeared to be root-bound, making them more likely to topple over as they increased in size.

The decision to remove the four trees was precipitated by the redesign of the street. As well as new road pavers and cobblestone footpaths, the Council will plant 4m lime trees, creating an avenue effect which has proved so successful along Worcester Boulevard.

The improved street design incorporates many more trees suited to their surroundings. Retaining the plane trees and Chinese elm until the lime trees were established would have detracted from the integrity of the new design and slowed the growth of the new trees.

The trees would have reduced the effectiveness of street lighting and removing the trees and stumps later would have caused considerable damage to new street paving. It would also have been a costly exercise.

Whereas the plane trees had obscured architectural features of the Old Government Building’s north facade, the new design and tree planting reinforces the symmetry of the exterior and highlights its architectural qualities. The overall plan also ties in with the new Cathedral Square redevelopment.

Council arboriculturist Walter Fielding-Cotterell recalls the plane trees and Chinese elm being planted 18 years ago "in a rather desperate attempt to establish some street tree planting in the central city". Their position was dictated entirely by the location of underground services rather than any overall design criteria.

The city is undergoing a dynamic period of change which was not foreseen when some of the central city plantings were carried out 20 years ago. A major advantage is that many new planting opportunities have been created. Furthermore, trees form an integral part of new construction designs rather than being "plonked " in as an afterthought.

While it is sad to lose the four trees, the increased number of new plantings and associated street design will produce a much more attractive approach to the Square than exists at present.

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