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Monday Oct 21, 2013

'Butchering' of old oaks leaves neighbour in tears

It is devastating for Mervyn Bennun when he opens the curtains of his Oranjezicht home.

Mervin Bennun, 77, is devastated by the 'butchering' of two ancient oak trees on his Oranjezicht property.

Just two weeks ago, he was greeted by the sight of sprawling oak trees.

But now he says the two old oaks have been 'butchered'.

'It's terrible, just awful,' said the 77year-old.

The trees were cut back last week to make way for a rising development on a neighbouring property.

About 9m of gnarled branches were lopped off. Bennun said the moment moved him to tears.

'When me and my wife bought this house (13 years ago) to enjoy our retirement, these trees were a big part of why we moved here.'

He said he could not do anything about it, because the trees were hanging over into another property. 'We did not have a leg to stand on.'

However, for the Oranjezicht resident the 'butchering' of the trees was a tragedy. He claimed that for more than 350 years they had been left untouched, a testament to first governor of the Cape - Simon van der Stel - who ordered that hundreds of oak trees to be planted across the province.

'I just wish we had been officially consulted, had some say so that we could preserve them,' he said.

The developers of the neighbouring property, who had the oak trees cut back, said they had taken every possible step to look after the trees.

'We paid for the removal, even though it fell on (Bennun) to cover the cost,' said developer Genene Carse.

When the development is complete next year, it will be a 'dream home' for Carse and her family.

She said she consulted experts and was told the trees were in poor health and had to be maintained.

'If you let them grow unchecked it can be bad for the tree... It can also be dangerous because the branches snap in the wind and fall off.'

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries scientist Izak van der Merwe said it was unlikely that Bennun's trees were first-generation Simon van der Stel oaks.

'His are probably around 200 years old,' he said.

He said it was important to maintain them, as the Western Cape climate radically shortened the life of oak trees.

Maintenance included cutting back branches to reduce strain on the trunk and control the tree's growth.

Cape Argus


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