People’s safety is being put at risk in order to protect old trees that native bats may or may not roost in, a Tamahere resident says.
John Simmons believes about 30 trees in the Tamahere Reserve are leaning perilously over the bordering Tauwhare Rd.
“I’ve been looking at these trees for some time and they are getting pretty hazardous,” he told the Waikato Times.
“On a windy day I’ve cycled down there and it’s pretty scary.”
Waikato District Council closed the reserve in late March, saying several pine trees posed a risk to the public.
However, tree work is being done in line with Department of Conservation conditions to conserve the habitat of the endangered long-tailed bat.
Simmons’ voice adds to criticism from volunteer group Tamahere-Mangaone Restoration Trust who argue DoC is holding up tree removal, and there is no evidence bats have roosted in the pines recently.
Simmons believes the only way to make the area safe is to fell the trees.
“It’s negligence on behalf of the council, they are risking people’s lives by not getting rid of these trees.”
All it needs is one major wind event for trees to fall across the road, causing damage or injury, he said.
He is doubtful bats live in the reserve, and feels they are being prioritised over human safety.
“The bats need to take second place.
“I’m a grandfather and resident of the area and I want my grandkids to be safe.”
Council open spaces team leader Duncan MacDougall said balancing the protection of an endangered species with risk to the public is constantly assessed.
An arborist’s report identified two trees that needed to be removed, while the rest will be trimmed, he said.
“Removing any trees has the potential to cause disturbances to the root system of others and therefore a holistic approach to the risk and the protection of native fauna must be taken.”
MacDougall disagreed the council had been negligent, saying the closure of the reserve shows safety is taken seriously.
In September 2017, DOC declined an application from the council to fell pine trees in the reserve, saying it could not permit them to “kill or destroy the habitat of long-tailed bats”.
DOC Waikato operations manager Ray Scrimgeour said long-tailed bats are protected wildlife under the Wildlife Act 1953 and it is an offence to harm or kill them.
However, as the reserve managers it is for council to make decisions about tree management and public safety, he said.
DOC’s role is to alert the council to the presence of bats and provide advice on protection of their habitat, he said
“Bats have been recorded moving within and near the reserve as well as roosting on pine trees within the reserve.
“The presence of an important bat population so close to an urban centre is unusual in New Zealand and it is important that we protect habitat such as large trees in the Tamahere Reserve if we wish to see this critically endangered, threatened species continue to exist in the central Waikato.”
Long-tailed bats tend to seek refuge in “large, gnarly old trees”.
“Bats generally do not exist within a landscape of small, young vegetation and neatly manicured trees.”
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