A storm in a 'tree-cup' going on in Auckland's Queen St over the holidays has had all sorts of people saying all sorts of nonsense -- the politically correct at loggerheads with the politically conservative over the architecturally stupid.
The issue? A "controversial plan to cull exotic trees on Auckland's Queen Street" and to replace them with natives, announced by mayor Dick Hubbard and referred to since by those with the vapours as The Great Tree Massacre. To me, the whole thing is somewhat laughable, but one with an important point.
The bloody trees should never have been there in the first place. Years ago -- some two thousand years, in fact -- Roman poet Virgil declared "God made the country, but man made the town." Poetically accurate, it describes why Queen St should be void of trees. The precincts of the city should be the place wherein man's great works are evident, the transition from country to city being a continuum from nature's great works to man's. As architect Claude Megson argued when the bloody trees were first planted, it was evident the reason was an abject lack of imagination on the part of those planting them -- man's great works being few and far between both in the streetscape of Auckland's main street and the heads of the council's architects, another time-honoured dictum was followed: "When in doubt, plant a tree."
The problem is not whether the trees in Queen St are exotic or native; the problem is that Auckland's city fathers have all the imagination of an anaemic hamster. Take the chainsaw to the trees, I say, and apply some imagination to the streetscape -- and don't plant any more bloody trees in Queen St. Use your head instead.