Planting to go ahead over objections

Gore District Council parks and recreation Keith McRobie checks the site of one of the three crabapple trees on Gore’s Main St which was prepared for planting last Friday. Preparing the site involved council staff installing a large pillowcase-like structure underground which will stop the tree from outgrowing its site. Mr McRobie said he hoped the other two sites would be ready by the end of the week. McDonough’s Contracting would then install a concrete curb around each site and seal the road. That work should be completed by the end of the month, Mr McRobie said. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Crabapple trees have triumphed over carparks in Gore and council staff are in the process of preparing the sites where five trees will be planted.

At a Gore District Council emergency meeting on November 8, councillors voted unanimously for the trees to be planted — fixing a procedural error which was pointed out in a letter from AB Gray and Associates, sent on behalf of Gore resident Peter Woods.

The letter challenged the legitimacy of a council resolution regarding the planting of crabapple trees in Gore’s Main St, passed unanimously at a meeting held on October 31.

At the council’s October 10 meeting, Mr Woods presented a petition signed by more than 140 business owners and staff asking for carparks to be reinstated on the east side of the street instead of the council-approved plan to replace troublesome redwood trees with crabapple trees.

Seven out of 12 councillors agreed to halt the planting of the crabapple trees while a survey was conducted.

However, at the October 31 council meeting, councillors backed a resolution tabled by Cr Glenys Dickson for the trees to be planted immediately given the costs already incurred — believed to be $300 a day — and mounting daily.

In a memo tabled at the emergency meeting, chief executive Stephen Parry said because the notice of motion was not signed by a third of the councillors it was not passed according to standing orders.

It still could have been procedurally correct if he had written a covering report incorporating its recommendation into that report.

Other work commitments ‘‘distracted from this task’’, Mr Parry said. Mr Woods was given an opportunity to speak. He had spoken to business owners again in the two days before the meeting on the side of the street where the trees would be planted. ‘‘They don’t want any trees whatsoever.’’

He reminded councillors that recently chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said councils should reflect what ratepayers want and before the last election many of the councillors had promised to represent ratepayers’ views.

During the discussion, Cr Robert McKenzie asked if Mr Woods had noticed a change in the attitude of the business owners from when he last talked to them.

Mr Woods said the business owners were ‘‘real anti now’’, because no-one had asked their opinion in the weeks between the first council meeting and the second.

Three Waters operations manager Aaron Green said the contractor in charge of the project had not charged the council yet.

‘‘He has copped a lot of flak from the residents because we have had these delays.

‘‘He wants to wash his hands of it.

‘‘Because he’s been, for a lighter word of it , bullied by the articles that have been out in the media about what the fees are, he hasn’t charged us a cent to date.’’

It was not good for business for the contractor not to charge for the site audits, Mr Green said.

‘‘I have strongly urged him to start charging us.’’

After the meeting, Mr Woods said the decision was very disappointing.

‘‘They’re not looking after the ratepayers, that’s for sure.