Residents continue vigil for old oak

2008-01-16 00:00

A VIGIL formed on Monday by angry Howick residents outside a century-old oak tree near St Luke’s Church on Main Road continued yesterday in an attempt to stop the municipality from carrying out rejuvenation plans that include chopping down the tree.

DA Ward 5 Councillor Tim Lindsay-White said that the vigil is being maintained because residents do not trust the municipality as a result of the latter’s lack of participation with the community.

Lindsay-White said that the “old oak has now become a symbol of the symptom of the problem that is really a lack of participation with the community from the municipality”.

“Residents want open, transparent communication,” he said.

Lindsay-White said that a number of blue gum trees were being felled yesterday, and again said that there has been no well-ordered plan.

“A call for a general public meeting with the municipality and residents is what is being urged,” he said.

He said that ward councillors have not been consulted by the management committee (Manco), so residents have no alternative but to protest. While the mission statement of the Umgeni Municipality clearly states that they “will ensure community participation in all projects”, Lindsay-White said that this is identifiably not the case.

Environmental action group Green Howick said the vigil around the old oak and petition-signing continued yesterday by concerned individual residents, who expressed “sadness and a desire to work with the local municipality to do what is best for the town” and to “conserve some of the beautiful, although alien, old trees that are an integral and historical part of the CBD”.

Over 400 signatures were received on the petition yesterday.

An e-mail was sent to Amafa (Heritage KZN) asking if there is any legal protection for trees of a certain age, but to date no response has been received from them, said the group.

Green Howick said that the deputy minister of the department of Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, was informed of the situation by a concerned resident via e-mail, but they have not received a response from her yet.

One resident said that although the trees are mostly exotic, they pose no ecological problem and that “mature trees” are a “valuable asset that required many years to attain individuality and presence in a community”.

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