DOC And The Pigeon Ratas. When Is A Tree ‘Dead’?

We recall an article back in July in the Otago Daily Times which covered the “theft” of Rata Wood from living trees on Pigeon Island. At the time there was a justifiable outcry about the wood having been hacked from the trees as the island is supposed to be one of the few places where it could be found. There was even a photo of a tree to show the damage that had been done (see link )

At the time Queenstown Lakes District Council parks manager Gordon Bailey was quoted thus:

“the council was contacted by staff of Rippled Earth Kayaks who noticed a “freshly chainsawed rata” on the island during a trip. These are big sections of timber that would have taken some transporting by boat,” Mr Bailey said.
The council was keen to hear from anyone with information on the theft of the rata.
Mr Bailey said he was disgusted anyone would destroy healthy trees and make off with the wood. “It’s a real insult to the community and in particular the hundreds of people that have volunteered countless hours to plant trees on the island,” Mr Bailey said. Taking anything from Pigeon Island was illegal and subject to prosecution, he said.”

And so it should be.

The offenders were uncovered recently. They turned out to be two Dept of Conservation (DOC) employees and they’ve just been clobbered with  a bill for £3000 which covered the investigation into the “theft” but there has been no prosecution, just red faces all round, not least for DOC.

However, the story now is slightly different in that the removed limbs were “dead wood” taken from “healthy trees” and they’d been given to the hut owner on the island where the DOC people had stayed to observe and check on the buff weka. Well….it must have been cold in July, no doubt the warmth they generated on the burner would’ve have been welcomed by all?

Mr Bailey said of the DOC staff:

“In their defence, they had considered that the removed limbs were dead wood, but both have acknowledged that taking the wood from a live tree is an offence. It was an unfortunate case of poor judgement on their part,”

We doubt that people who make a living out of studying Weka are also arboriculturalists who are qualified to make the judgement call, but then, we could be wrong because they obviously knew how to wield a chain saw.

They offenders have been subjected to ‘departmental disciplinary procedures’ in addition to paying $3,000.

So the question is when does a perfectly healthy tree become ‘healthy but with dead bits’ –  when  it’s needed for the fire?

Time for solar panels.