The iconic phoenix palms on the reserve in front of Mansion House on Kawau Island have been deliberately poisoned.
The eight palm trees, originally planted in 1950s, are either dead or dying with drill holes at their bases. Although not part of the original gardens from the 1800’s, the palms have seen generations of day trippers, boaties and visitors come and go over the past 60 years.
Department of Conservation (DOC) staff were first aware of the issue in early March when some of the palms were showing signs of distress. But, as Covid-19 lockdown came into play, staff were unable to assess the palms until 20 May, a week after the country moved to Level 2.
DOC Ranger, Sophie Kynman-Cole, visited the island at Level 2 and noticed the state of the trees.
“This was senseless vandalism,” she says. “The amenity value of the trees has served Kawau Island well for decades.
“The culprit has drilled substantial holes into the base of each tree and poured something like concentrated weed-killer into the holes. It’s obvious we cannot save the trees.”
Kawau Island was probably originally covered in kauri forests with pohutukawa on the coastal fringes. The island has been continually burnt and cleared and heavily modified from successive occupation until modern times.
In the 1860’s, many exotic plants and animals were introduced including wallabies, which still persist. The wallabies, along with stands of pine trees, have reduced the remnant native forest significantly.
DOC manages Kawau Island Historic Reserve, which covers about 10 per cent of the island and includes Mansion House and the surrounding historic gardens.
The Department will assess the overall state of the reserve to determine what might happen next.
“We need to consider other heritage values when the palms are removed and what might replace them,” Ms Kynman-Cole says.
The phoenix palm trees were protected under the Auckland Unitary Plan. Auckland Council has confirmed that the incident has been referred to Council’s compliance investigations north team for action.
If anyone has any information about this act of vandalism please call 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362468) for a confidential discussion.