Construction okes cut down the tree oak

21 September 2012 - 02:01 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Hannes Breytenbach, 25, tries to stop a tree in Newlands, Cape Town, being felled yesterday
Hannes Breytenbach, 25, tries to stop a tree in Newlands, Cape Town, being felled yesterday

"I feel like a failure today," said astrophysics master's student Hannes Breytenbach after failing to save an enormous old oak in Newlands, Cape Town.

Breytenbach climbed the tree at about 9am yesterday to stop a construction company chopping it down. By 10.30am, he had been forced to abandon his noble protest for fear of being taken down with the tree.

"The guy in charge said I had a minute to come down; if I didn't they would cut me down with the branches," said Breytenbach.

"Then they started cutting and I thought it was not worth risking my life so I decided to come down. I couldn't watch as they chopped down the tree. It was too emotional for me - it was a very sad day."

He said even though the old tree had been on private property, it should have belonged to all because it provided aesthetic value to the area, shade and shelter for animals.

The tree, it emerged, had to go because the property owner wanted to renovate her home.

Cape Town's Mayoral Committee Member for economic environmental and spatial planning Belinda Walker said mature trees and hedges areas could not be felled without permission.

"The tree in question was on a property outside an urban conservation area. If trees are not listed as protected in the National Forests Act, they enjoy no legal protection provided for in national legislation," said Walker.

Sean Maasch, owner of Topfell, a tree-felling company, said it was probably between 100 and 150 years old.

By yesterday evening it was down and the stump ground down to get rid of roots causing structural damage to the property.

"We found 90% of the base of the tree was rotten," said Maasch.

"Big oaks do that in South Africa because it is not the right climate for them. It is not an indigenous."