Monday, 5 January 2015

Saving the Pohutukawa 6

Just down the road from my house, there are six mighty Pohutukawa trees on the Great North Road opposite MOTAT (the Museum of Transport and Technology).

Pohutukawa 6
These trees were planted during the 1930’s Depression by a Public Works Scheme on Auckland City land. They are owned by us the people.

They have been faithful servants to the residents of Auckland for 80 years despite the polluted exhaust fumes they breathe in every day from the neighbouring motorway and the Great North Road traffic.

Trees make up most of Auckland’s beauty. Its human-created cityscape has horrendously few public or private, old or new buildings that are aesthetically pleasing.
Hurray for our handsome Grey Lynn villas!
Boo to the hyperdermic needle that cradles a cancerous casino and defines the Auckland skyscape!
Photo:Patrick Reynolds

Mostly the city fathers have endowed us a hotchpotch of bad and ugly architecture and city layout. And yet Auckland is such a visually pleasing city regardless, because of its natural environment of surrounding sea, jutting volcanic peaks and its semi-tropical climate that encourages lush growth. Green trees, bushes and gardens sprout and thanks to far-sighted visionaries we have been provided with many parks and open spaces unmarked by asphalt.

Photo:Patrick Reynolds

Here is a terrific photographic essay by Patrick Reynolds.

Our eyes are drawn to the tree versus the building(s). Imagine how bereft and unlovely these spaces would be without the tree!
How would we live without the crazy Dr. Seuss Cabbage trees doing their thing against the backdrop of the glass tower?
Photo:Patrick Reynolds


So many cities of the world live without these gifts from nature.

So back to the Pohutukawa 6 of Western Springs.

A $70 million motorway interchange is being constructed and requires a left-turning lane. 

Despite the Waitemata Local Board (elected) who owns the carpark behind the trees who were opposed to the trees being destroyed to make way for the off-ramp; despite 53 submissions made by the public being dismissed and therefore not heard by the Commission Hearing in November 2014 due to a “clerical error”!!!; despite the trees heritage and beauty; it appears the Auckland Transport (unelected authority) have the power to annihilate the glory of these Pohutakawa giants.

19 lanes across of motorway must prevail. We need more deserts of asphalt.

It is richly ironic that it was under a Public Works Scheme that these trees were bequeathed to future generations. This modern massive motorway construction is a form of Public Works and requires these very trees’ death.

In older civilisations, public works schemes were called such names as the Seven Wonders of the World and included such notables as the Pyramids of Gaza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The world is in fact littered with great (and beautiful) works of art and architecture that kings, bankers and politicians have created under public work schemes for the greater glory of the gods, or to immortalise themselves. Tourists flock to worship them.

How times have changed!  And in such a short space of time.
This recent civilisation of which we are a far-flung colonial outpost, is now hell-bent on constructing monuments of concrete wasteland, dedicated to worship the devouring maw of motorcar. 

The mostly men who make these decisions – for the public good -  believe they are making rational decisions based on “bottom-line” (economic) reasons. They choose to believe they are the objective ones and view people who disagree with them as subjective irrational and emotional. This is meant to be a put-down.

Well I think emotions are as important as reason. If both aren’t acknowledged in any debate, we get into the place exactly where the western world is now.
Unconscious, unexpressed emotion rules any kind of guiding reasonable intelligence. This becomes fatal in those who have societal power to make decisions that affect all the people. Their unexamined ideology - that is deeply irrational - administers, directs and controls us and all our structural systems.
Emotions govern most of our so-called rational mind –a deep-seated investment of a greedy self-interest and elevated egos sit darkly behind most ideas/opinions of the people who know the worth of everything and the value of nothing.

Photo: Jackson Perry

I am certainly emotional about this issue of the pohutukawas – although not irrational. Hysterical I may well become if they murder these trees. (hysteria you will be pleased to know is a word that means – disturbance of and from the womb). Yes it may well be a woman-thing to grieve loudly when monstrously stupid things are done in the name of “progress”, by people who hold more power than you do.

The three reasons I believe (oops an irrational word if ever there was one!) these Pohutukawas should stay put are:-

1.    They are beautiful. They produce shade and beauty a resting place for our eyes and our hearts. Their annual flowering is a delight that herald Xmas-time, summer and holidays.

‘ Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all you need to know’
(John Keats in Ode to a Grecian Urn)

Do we want to live in an endless sea of human-made ugliness, dedicated to car and concrete?
Photo:Nora Leggs

2.    They are old. They are our elders and our heritage. Planted during the Great Depression, they gave men work in a terrible time of hunger and unemployment.
They are older than me –and I respect the history they have lived.

Photo:Russell Brown

3.    They are - and have been for 80 years – the city’s faithful servants. They are the lungs of the city, storing carbon and producing oxygen. They serve us well by mitigating the pollution of traffic.  They serve us by reminding us of the beauty and rhythms of the natural world which is animated with other creatures that live in this city besides humans. Birds nest in these trees which give shelter to them and our insect friends. Is it not possible to show a little respect for our habitat and our non-human familiars – tree, bird, insect?

If the urban terrorists murder these magnificent trees, they murder part of us; the part that is our human soul.
Now that ineffable soul does not have a “bottom-line”; it does not worship 17 lanes of traffic.

Can’t the engineers who have designed and are so cleverly crafting this huge motorway, come up with an alternative to their original design? What is so difficult about saving our city heritage, developing beauty and giving a heart to our city?

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