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Source: Far North District Council

A section of The Strand on Russell’s foreshore will be closed to traffic while an arborist investigates how to save one of the historic town’s most iconic trees.

The huge Morton Bay fig tree growing outside the Heritage New Zealand-listed Russell Police Station is believed to have been planted in 1870, but has been in declining health for several years. 

The 65m-high tree has lost significant leaf cover and in 2017 the Council had to remove a number of dead and dying limbs. 

An arborist says the most likely cause of the tree’s decline is the weight of motor vehicles driving along the Strand compacting soil under the tarmac and starving the tree of moisture and nutrients.

The arborist says that without intervention the tree is likely to die. 

From Wednesday the Council will close a 50m section of The Strand under the tree and remove the road seal to allow an arborist to undertake a thorough investigation of the root system. A representative of Heritage NZ will also be on site during the work to ensure any artefacts of historical significance are preserved.

The section of road will remain closed until the arborist has completed the investigation and reported back to Council. 

General Manager – Infrastructure and Asset Management, Andy Finch, says the investigation and subsequent report from the arborist will determine what action will be taken to save the tree. 

“Almost certainly we will have to remove compacted material from around the roots. Until we get a better understanding of how badly damaged the root system is, it is impossible to say how or if we can protect the tree from further damage.” 

He says that no businesses or private homes will be impacted by the road closure. All can still be accessed either via York Street or from the boat ramp end of The Strand. 

Traffic management and signs will be in place during the road closure. A letter explaining the work will be delivered to Russell businesses and others who may be affected.