• Trees to be removed from Hikanui Pā in Tainui Reserve

Trees to be removed from Hikanui Pā in Tainui Reserve

Trees threatening Hikanui Pā, after being left vulnerable by Cyclone Gabrielle, will be removed from the top of Tainui Reserve in late summer, after funding for the work was approved by Hastings District Council last week. 

About 30 exotic trees fell during the storm, and arboricultural specialists have advised that the loss of so many trees has left a significant percentage of the rest of the stand of trees vulnerable to failing, which risks serious damage to the pā site. 

Hikanui Pā and terraces are registered archaeological sites that Council is charged with protecting. The pā sits on the middle of three ridgelines in the reserve, with the terraces located on the western ridgeline. 

Accessible from the upper Hikanui Drive entrance the pā contains archaeological features through the interior including a ditch and bank, terracing and pits. 

The area also contains large aging exotic trees, generally macrocarpa, gum and pine trees, which have been failing over recent years, opening the canopy and leaving the area vulnerable to wind. 

As the site is protected under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act, Hastings District Council engaged archaeological specialists to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle and its impact on the area. 

They recommended that the removal of the remaining tree stand needed to happen urgently due to the ongoing risk to the remaining archaeology. 

“The impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on the wider Tainui Reserve and Hikanui Pā specifically has been severe. Multiple trees have failed and fallen both from root ball failure and stem failure. 

“Numerous more are now at risk of failure due to direct compromises from the weather or impact from neighbouring trees, or due to the ‘domino effect’ of being exposed to new wind forces,” their report said. 

In light of the legislative requirements to protect the pā site, and to enable the tree removal to be undertaken before next winter to prevent the risk of further damage due to adverse weather conditions, Council agreed on Tuesday [Nov 14] to allocate $500,000 to $550,000 of unbudgeted funding to get the work done. 

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the removal of these trees had been under consideration already as part of the draft Reserve Management Plan process for Tainui Reserve, but the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle left little option but to bring this work forward. 

“Tainui Reserve is a very popular green space for our community, and the pā is a significant site for mana whenua. 

“Removing these trees now is the most pragmatic option to deal with the immediate challenges, and ongoing revegetation with indigenous species will ensure this area is better preserved for the future, both in terms of its cultural values as well as climate change mitigation.

“We will be talking to the community about the process and looking to enlist the assistance of our wonderful care groups, who have done such a great job in the past, to help with the revegetation and ongoing care and maintenance of this special place.” 

The next step now was to obtain archaeological authority from Heritage New Zealand for the felling and removal of the trees, which ideally would take place in optimal ground conditions this summer. 

The works would be undertaken with guidance from Archaeology Hawke’s Bay and geotechnical engineers. It was expected to take up to eight weeks, weather permitting. 

How the timber would be disposed of would be confirmed once contractors have been engaged, potentially export or firewood, with a rebate to Council to help defray the cost.