Apartment residents want kōwhai trees moved from Wānaka lakeside

by Lauren Pattemore - May 19, 2023

Residents of a lakeside apartment block in Wānaka will have to learn to live with their new leafier view after a community board decision failed to go their way.

The body corporate at Panorama Court had asked the Queenstown Lakes District Council remove some native trees planted without, they say, proper consultation, but local elected representatives today denied their request.

John Davidson, who has lived at the address for 30 years, says he specifically chose the location for its direct view of the lake and “paid a premium” for it. It is his view that's why other residents, as well as tourists, also choose to stay at the property on Lakeside Road.

Speaking with Crux at the meeting, Mr Davidson says that he and the eight other residents that make up the Panorama Court Body Corporate had lodged a request to the council to relocate a total of six kōwhai trees that were planted in front of their lake and mountain views.

However, the council report prepared for the matter says that the QLDC had previously compromised and agreed to remove three of the trees. Following this decision to remove the three trees, the council had received another application from Panorama Court residents requesting the removal of a further six to eight kōwhai trees.

Panorama Court overlooks Roy's Bay Reserve, with both permanent residents and tourists staying there.

This request was vetoed today (May 19), in a meeting of the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board, with board member Linda Joll saying the trees “wouldn’t survive” a relocation.

Back in November 2021, the council planted approximately 24 trees along Roy’s Bay Reserve as part of the Wānaka Lakefront Development, after consulting with the community in 2016 about planting eight trees in the area.

Also against the tree removal was community board member John Wellington, who doesn’t “believe there is a legal entitlement to a view”.

Meanwhile deputy mayor Quentin Smith says it's his opinion the kōwhai trees would enhance the view, attracting tui to the area and adding more colour to the landscape.

“I don’t think it will affect their enjoyment on the outlook,” Mr Smith says.

Resident Richard Laverty says everyone has differing opinions on what makes a good view, and emphasises he’s not anti-tree and the November 2021 planting was “not very cleverly done”.

Mr Laverty told Crux after the item was discussed by the community board that Panorama Court was only wanting to remove six of the trees in total, not a further six to eight. 

He says they were only after the removal of three more trees, in addition to the already agreed upon relocation of three trees by the council. 

He says he didn’t think he could interject during the meeting and clarify the body corporate’s request, but says he will be following up and clarifying their request.

Despite the no vote and some miscommunication, two Upper Clutha councillors did share the same perspective of the Panorama Court residents, voting in support of the proposal to relocate the trees.

Councillor Lyal Cock says he “can’t see the justification” for having this many trees planted in this specific spot.

“I question the concept of having so many trees here. We spent all this money on this wonderful path and walk down the lakefront…when I walk down there, I expect to see the lake.”

Seconding his opinion was councillor Cody Tucker, who says having this many trees would create a “disconnect with the main iconic view” of Lake Wānaka.

As per the council’s tree policy, adopted in August 2022, trees will not be removed to minimise the obstruction on views, however, it's Mr Laverty opinion this isn’t relevant as the trees were planted in 2021 under the old policy.

If the trees were to be relocated, a council arborist says they would not be relocated to a different spot on the lakefront, but instead a plantation reserve.

The council has also offered to not replace two trees that didn't survive the planting, but Mr Laverty says it's not relevant to Panorama Court residents because those trees weren't in their view line.

This story was updated on Wednesday 24 after receiving communication from the Queenstown Lakes District Council about the contents of Panorama's Court's original application: Council provided a copy of Panorama Court's application, which says, "[QLDC] has agreed to remove 3 trees, although this process has now been deferred to the coming Autumn. Whilst this is appreciated, the owners are requesting the removal of a further 6-8 trees".

Main image: The kōwhai trees in question on Lakeside Road, in Wānaka.

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