Notable Trees historical background

When was the first Register of Notable Trees created in South Wairarapa?

The modern day area known as South Wairarapa up until October 1989 comprised four smaller councils; Martinborough, Greytown and Featherston Borough Councils and Featherston County Council. Each of these had a District Scheme since c. 1953. Despite each of the above District Schemes having the ability to protect trees, it appears the first time this was exercised officially under a district scheme was some 35 years later by the Greytown Borough Council. It’s not surprising given Greytown was New Zealand’s first town to celebrate Arbor Day in 1890; the world’s first was celebrated by a small Spanish village by the name of Mondoñedo in 1594. The register of Noteworthy Trees had 63 registrations and started a planning tradition that is now 28 years old.

Did anything come before that?

In ancient times, tangata whenua observed, recorded and shared information about trees for hundreds of years. The forerunner to a formal, recognised tree evaluation process in the Wairarapa was information kept in lists by the Greytown Beautifying Society and their well-recognised member Mrs. Stella Bull during the 19th and 20th centuries. This was the basis for a NZ Forest Service report about historic and notable trees compiled by Mr. Stanley Burstell in 1974. It recorded information about 62 tree’s or groups of trees around Greytown and Featherston categorised as following; 7 national interest; 30 local interest and 25 un categorised.

What came next? The first recognised tree evaluation process

The first recognised tree evaluation process was the TEM (Tree Evaluation Method, 1988) developed by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH). This was used as the basis of a proposed Plan Change to the Greytown Borough District Scheme. Compiled by Council Officers, with expert input from Mr. Ron Flook, the proposal was approved, and the first tree register using the Tree Evaluation Method was established in 1990 comprising 63 registrations. Copies of the original TEM hand-written registration forms for each registration are on file at Council. The ‘noteworthy’ trees were categorised as following; 20 Class 1; 37 Class 2 and 4 of special community interest ‘class 3’.

A district scheme and two district plans later, this 1988 list and methodology mostly remained the same for the next 30 years.

The original register was added to in the first South Wairarapa District Plan draft (1994) since the inception of the RMA in 1991.The register grew by 8 registrations to a new total of 71; 21 Class 1; 36 Class 2 and 12 Class 3. It appears they were not assessed under the STEM (1996) methodology despite being available prior to the Plan becoming operative in 1998, 8 years after the first tree register.

District plans must be reviewed every 10 years. Eight years later (2006) the three district Plans of each of the three Wairarapa Council’s came together as the Combined Wairarapa District Plan (CWDP). Appendix 1.4 was created in the CWDP, with a register of notable trees for each of the three Councils; Tm = Masterton District Council; Tc = Carterton District Council and Ts = South Wairarapa District Council.

There is no mention of a tree evaluation methodology referenced, nor any common evaluation methodology used across the three district lists. For South Wairarapa particularly 26 trees were added; 7 trees were deleted and some other minor amendments at time of becoming operative in 2011.


South Wairarapa District Council