Grandmother loses her land so tree can stay

Margaret Skinner will lose part of her property because a protected pohutukawa (right) can't be removed by the council.
Margaret Skinner will lose part of her property because a protected pohutukawa (right) can't be removed by the council.

MARGARET Skinner believes the solution to stopping the loss of a large chunk of her Kamo Rd property is simple - cut down the pohutukawa tree across the road.

But the pohutukawa is protected and so 65sq m of Mrs Skinner's land must go to make way for the $7 million Nixon St expansion.

The 85-year-old great-grandmother will lose a large part of her front garden, driveway and parking area as a nearby intersection is altered.

Mrs Skinner wants the intersection to expand on land the tree is on.

But New Zealand's Whangarei District Council cannot cut down the pohutukawa.

It's a heritage tree listed in the district plan as the last remaining tree of the Kensington Estate, according to WDC senior roading engineer Greg Monteith.

This prompted Mrs Skinner's grandchildren to write to the Advocate, saying:

"Growing old with dignity? Not in Whangarei. Our 85-year-old nana who has lived most of her adult life in Northland and realises that she is worth less than a tree that grows across the road [sic]."

Mrs Skinner has lived at the property for 11 years and will receive compensation for the land under the Public Works Act 1981.

"It doesn't matter how much money they are going to give me. It won't compensate me for what I'm losing - my quality of life. Loss of privacy, more pollution - and access is going to be far more difficult."

The changes will leave her with a narrow footpath to her front door, and while she says her mobility is currently good, it won't stay that way.

Told by council staff about the plans in April, Mrs Skinner immediately got legal advice. "At the end of the day, council have got the right to take it," she said.

WDC's Mr Monteith said the council's aim was to affect as few property owners and residents as possible.

"We don't take it lightly taking anyone's land and we try to do it with the least impact to all."

All properties on the northern side of the street are to be cut by two metres in preparation for the expansion.

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