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Transit's Coromandel chop totally over the top

Transit's Coromandel chop totally over the top

Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has slammed the plan by "state-owned vandal" Transit New Zealand to butcher 58 ancient pohutukawa trees on one of New Zealand's most-recognised scenic roads.

Ms Fitzsimons said that thousands of people who visit the Coromandel each year would be deeply shocked to find that the scenic 1.5 kilometre stretch of the Thames coastal between Waiomu and Ruamahunga Bay would be stripped of its celebrated pohutukawa, especially given the outcry a year ago when it was proposed to fell just 13 of them.

Following that, consultation between Transit contractor Opus International and the local community last year assured residents that sharp corners could still be smoothed while pruning, rather than felling, most of the trees.

"This is a much, much worse version of the plan that had Aucklanders and Coromandel residents up in arms last year," said Ms Fitzsimons, who lives near Thames. "Transit has essentially ignored the whole consultation process in their dreams of turning the Coromandel's west coast into a fast, straight, ugly road.

"I have seen plans that show it is just the start of a plan to straighten and widen the whole coast road. Fifty-eight trees are the tip of Transit's iceberg. All New Zealanders who love this place must act now to stop this state owned vandalism.

"The winding, narrow coast road between Thames and Coromandel town has some of the most stunning views in the country. In summer with the pohutukawas in bloom, it looks like crimson cliffs dropping into the Firth of Thames, now the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

"It is not a through road to anywhere but the north Coromandel and for many visitors it is the scenic highlight of their trip. People who want to speed on a straight road should stick to the Auckland motorways and leave the Coromandel to those who appreciate its uniqueness and are willing to respect it," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Ms Fitzsimons said that Transit's proposal is directly contrary to the new responsibilities set for Transit in the Land Transport Management Act, passed about a year ago.

That legislation, developed jointly between the Government and the Greens, says that Transit must operate the state highway system in a way that contributes to a sustainable land transport system, which includes 'avoiding, to the extent reasonable in the circumstances, adverse effects on the environment; and taking into account the views of affected communities'.

"I urge Transit to stick to their brief and resist running highways through the best of New Zealand's scenic regions. It's important to make the road safer and I agree that most people are willing to accept tree-trimming and even the occasional removal to achieve that, but this is totally over the top," she said.

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