Some would consider the oak trees synonymous with Knysna so when the Knysna Municipality began cutting them down, there were a lot of disturbed residents. In Grey Street, particularly, it was noticeable as the majority were felled across three blocks and most of the others trimmed severely.
R702 000 was budgeted for the removal and pruning of 160 trees.
Christopher Bezuidenhout (Manager of Communications & Customer Relations) ‘explained’ that: “The last twenty years has seen a deterioration of the trees due to age and or growing conditions. Most of the oak trees have recently been infected by an ambrosia beetle or a stem borer and a pathogen which causes the trees to die within a short time frame. Normally not all diseased trees have to be removed completely. There are times when an ailing tree can be saved with the right treatment. Unfortunately there is no known cure against this infection when the trees are mature. With winter approaching any tree that is diseased and dying will shed more branches and can more easily come down in a storm, being a potential danger to persons and property.”
That seems to make sense but does it?
No one wants harm to befall any citizen or property but it’s also too easy a catch-all response to public query. The reality is that the press release, like so many from Knysna Municipality says a lot without explaining much.
Firstly, it should have been explained why a sentence stating that the trees had been deteriorating for “twenty years” is followed by “recently affected by an ambrosia beetle or a stem borer and a pathogen.” We are led to believe that our oak trees are the unluckiest – not only were they old and in poor growing conditions but under attack by 3 different killers. It’s possible but it requires deeper explanation.
It’s true that there’s no cure for the ambrosia beetle which is attracted to decaying or sweet-smelling trees, especially after long summers. The beetle deposits ambrosia fungus spores and cultivates it whilst simultaneously blocking the nutrient flow in the tree. The cure is to cut off the offending limbs. The question is whether healthy trunks were cut too?
I and others noticed that there were many sliced trunks that were in good condition. Tons of oak would be worth millions. Lauren Waring has stated that all the oak is to be burned but where is the oversight? And could any of that would have been sold so as to reinvest into Knysna?
Why was the thinnest oak in Grey Street, which seems diseased, not removed?
Furthermore, this would be burning on a massive scale. Where is it taking place and what is the health risk to the nearest communities? One subscriber asked if it was happening at the municipal dump site between Concordia and the N2 as clouds of smoke have become a daily, health scaring issue. I don’t know the answer… but we should know it.
Why was there no public participation?
Why was utilising outside contractors the best course for Knysna?
When will the stumps be removed? How will they be removed?
Where will the money to fix the pavements and road come from?
When will new trees be planted and what will they be?
There’s a lot more welcoming sunshine in Grey Street but did it arrive at a price?
And will Belvidere, famous for it’s oak trees, one day be renamed ‘Sunningdale’ if the same municipal logic is applied?
If you have any queries (you’re welcome to copy and paste from this blog), you should direct them to Dawie Adonis, the Director of Community Services – firstname.lastname@example.org. PS: With the latest salary increase, he’ll be the newest director earning a million a year.