Fate of toa trees hang in the balance

Thursday September 24, 2020 Written by Published in Environment
Ironwood trees along the main road at Takitumu Primary School field. 20061234/20061235 Ironwood trees along the main road at Takitumu Primary School field. 20061234/20061235

Residents and other concerned members of the community have rallied to save the toa trees outside Takitumu School.

Government is planning further consultations with the public before deciding on a re-development plan for roadworks in Matavera that will ultimately decide the fate of 30 toa (ironwood) trees.

The trees, which are located directly in front of Takitumu Primary School, are revered by community residents.

Sonny Williams, Infrastructure Cook Islands’ director of planning and projects, said a date hasn’t been set for the meeting but he expected it to be held before the end of next week.

Last month at a meeting with concerned Matavera residents, Infrastructure officials said the trees would have to be sacrificed to allow for a wider roadway, accommodate a drainage system, and a pedestrian walkway.

Since then, residents and other concerned members of the community have rallied to save the trees.

Matavera resident Des Eggelton submitted a proposal for the roadway, which he said could save most of the trees while fulfilling Infrastructure Cook Islands’ requirements by placing the pedestrian walkway on the inland side of the trees.

Eggelton said the trees provide shade and allow Takitumu Primary School to hold “outdoor” classes. Government would also save money by avoiding the expense of removing the trees, he said.

Many residents agree that the trees closest to the roadway leading to the school’s main entrance need to be removed to improve visibility on the bend in the road, thus improving road safety.

The trees were planted in the 1960s when the school was first opened. Since then, they have provided protection for generations of children.

Carly Ave, principal at Takitumu School, said she hasn’t been informed of any developments in plans for the roadworks since last month’s public consultations.

“We had a good community meeting and I think it’s taking some time for them to consider,” Ave said.

“We are waiting for ICI to get back to us,” she said. “They will provide us with a plan to make arrangements to put in place plans for health and safety.”

About 60 people attended the meeting last month where Sonny Williams presented two different options for the proposed road works improvements outside the school.

He played video recordings to illustrate how vital Infrastructure Cook Islands felt it was to widen the road and make further improvements after many near misses.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen. For us the most important thing is safety. Right now, we all know it’s not safe,” Williams told the participants.

“The road needs to be wider and straighter so road users have got a better viewpoint.”

Williams said they looked at the option of widening the road on the sea side, but were unable to secure consent from landowners after meeting with them.

The second option, to remain within the legal road width boundaries of 10.4 metres, will mean the trees have to go, he said.

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