The NZ Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) is working with Auckland Council to save one of the historic Norfolk Island pines at Auckland's Mission Bay.
The tree - one of two believed to have been planted by Bishops Selwyn and Patterson between 1860 and 1870 - was struck by lightning more than a decade ago. More recently, it has become infected by Phytophthora cinnamomi, a pathogen known to affect Norfolk Island pines.
"The Norfolk Island pine is not in great shape, and has been losing limbs for a number of years," says Blair Hastings, a spokesperson for the NZHPT, which owns the adjacent historic Melanesian Mission building, on the same site.
"Although the tree is not believed to be in immediate danger of falling, we want to take steps to remove any potential for injury to people, or damage to the Melanesian Mission building. We also want to do everything we can to give this tree a shot at rejuvenation."
Auckland Council arborists have recommended reducing the crown of the tree to 13.5 metres and removing any deadwood in order to minimise any danger to the public and to, hopefully, nurture the tree back to good health.
"We're keen to see the Norfolk Island pine continue to be a heritage landmark at Mission Bay, and we want to do everything we can to save it," says Auckland Council's Heritage Arborist Nick Stott.
"Although reducing the crown of the Norfolk Island pine tree is a big step to take, we believe that, in this instance, it gives the tree the best hope of recovery" says Mr Stott.
"From the NZHPT's perspective, public safety is our primary consideration, though we really want the best possible outcome both for this historic tree and the very important heritage buildings close by," says Mr Hastings.
"We're hopeful that, by taking this approach, potential danger to the public will be removed and that Aucklanders will be able to enjoy this historic tree in its natural heritage setting, along with the Melanesian Mission buildings, for many years to come."
Work is scheduled to take place on the tree on June 19, weather permitting.
Although advice from Council arborists indicates that there's life in the old Norfolk Island pine yet, there is still a possibility that more of the tree may need to come down.
"The reality is that we don't really know what we'll find until we start working on the tree. There is a possibility that the tree is in such poor health that the entire Norfolk Island pine may need to be removed," says Mr Hastings.
"We're hopeful that that's not the case - and the evidence seems to suggest that the tree can be saved - but we probably won't know for sure until work begins."
A second historic Norfolk Island pine close to the sick tree is unaffected by the pathogen, and is in good health.
"Preserving the heritage and character of our community is a key focus for the Orakei Local Board," said chair Desley Simpson. "We would support any work that helps make this Norfolk Pine safe and allows it to remain part of the Mission Bay landscape for many years to come."
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