No comets seen lately, but Coast faces deadly hazards from flying ephiphytes and astelias, says KCDC
By Alan Tristram
After the controversial closing of the Wi Parata Reserve in Waikanae ‘because of the danger of falling ephiphytes’, the Kapiti Independent asked the Kapiti Coast District council exactly how many people have been killed or hurt by flying tree-lump
These are known scientifically as ephiphytes and astelias.
But it turns out the Council has no statistics to back up the drastic action of closing the reserve, but it is worried because of a ‘near miss’ from a falling astelia.
Meanwhile, local wildlife enthusiast and author Dr Viola Palmer, herself a Waikanae resident, has voiced her concerned about the reserve closure (see our story and comment , ‘Waikanae Reserve Closed, Feb. 5).
‘Will trampers have to wear crash helmets?’
And in the Dompost today, well-known Wellington writer John Whitty says clumps of astelia can be seen in trees in any bush area.
He asks: “Does this mean that councils up and down the country are going to deny access to trampers?
“Will trampers, like cyclists, be required to wear helmets?”
KCDC’s position on reserve dangers
The Kapiti Coast District Council Parks and Recreation Manager, Alison Law, says:
“We don’t have any statistics on deaths or injuries from ephiphytes , but the recent near miss of a falling astelia nearly hitting a member of the public is enough for us to take action.
“There is a risk to public safety, particularly as the clumps can be quite heavy and fall from a height.
“We recognise that Wi Parata Reserve is a well-used track and a beautiful reserve in Waikanae, but the safety of our community is our main priority.
“We don’t want to take any risks and the last thing we want is for an accident to happen if it can be avoided.”
Dr Palmer’s concerns
But in her critique, Dr Viola Palmer says:
“I think the Council has gone overboard in closing the Wi Parata Reserve. Being felled by a falling epiphyte would be a freak accident.
“When did this last occur?
“If all natural hazards are to be avoided, the Waikanae River (people have drowned there) and the Waimeha Lagoons (what about toddler safety) should be fenced off.
“A more appropriate response is a warning notice, which the Council has done, and the removal of epiphytes overhanging the tracks. Making new tracks would be more disruptive to the ecosystem.”
According to Wikipedia: “Astelia is a genus of rhizomatous tufted perennials in the family Asteliaceae which are native to various island in the Pacific, Indian, and South Atlantic Oceans, as well as to Australia and to the southernmost tip of South America.