Jacaranda capital of NZ

Tauranga’s jacarandas are simply stunning, with a canopy of Persian blue flowers on the trees and carpeting the ground beneath.

Giving Tauranga a ‘Jacaranda January’, this season they started flowering before Christmas.

Tauranga city has been divided into 13 character areas based on tree themes, tree types and land use patterns. You’ll find jacarandas (jacaranda mimosaefolia) have been planted in public areas on Cliff Road, Bellevue Road, Cameron Road (between Elizabeth Street and Cornwall Street) and on many private properties.

Trees are a collection of living entities that together contribute to a city’s identity, form and well-being.

They can help to reduce traffic noise, supply oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, increase property values and provide visual amenity and shade.

In 2004, the Tauranga jacaranda flower display was particularly spectacular, resulting in local growers suggesting Tauranga could stake its claim as the Jacaranda capital of New Zealand.

A beautiful shade tree, it can be grown in large containers or in the ground, and produces it’s stunning coating of mauve blue flowers during summer. There have been a few dramas around  the trees. Some residents find themselves reacting to the flowering.

In June 2017, there was a debate over the Pillans Road jacaranda. David and Helen Webster bought the property at 144 Pillans Road, Tauranga in 2016, moved in - and then wanted Tauranga City  Council to cut down the jacaranda tree directly outside the house.

However, this particular mature jacaranda directly on the south side of the Webster’s home is a  remnant from the original farmhouse and orchard plantings on the street, and pre-dates the area’s  urban development.

The historical connection was raised at the city council Environment Committee by lawyer Nick Ellsmore, acting for the descendants of the planters of the jacaranda trees in Pillans Point.

They weren’t satisfied with the pruning and  offered to fell the tree at their cost and replace it  with a kauri.

Council staff refused the offer because the jacaranda wasn’t disrupting services or the health of residents.

It didn’t meet the criteria.

Neighbours were polled.

A council survey had six neighbours opposed to removing the tree and 18 who had no objection.

Lawyer Nick Elsmore, on behalf of Kathryn and Fraser Lellman, argued for the retention of the tree saying the historical context is an important part of the committee’s deliberations.

“It’s important in a growing town like Tauranga that we retain our historical connections,” says Nick.

He argued against replacing the jacaranda with another tree, saying a new tree won’t replace a 70-year-old one.

Tauranga City Council has a planting guide for street trees available on their website.

Consideration is given to commonly occurring street tree species, featured trees and powerlines.

The guide shows the ‘significant roads’ which are the arterial and collector roads for each area, and  the ‘minor roads’ and makes suggestions for the range of tree species that would be most appropriate for those areas.

For example, in Otumoetai and Matua, which developed as residential areas in the 1970s and 1980s, there are reasonably wide berms with overhead power lines on one or both sides of the roads. The preferred trees there are Japanese maples, silver birches, Yoshino cherry trees and jacarandas.

My favourite mention of Tauranga’s jacarandas dates from 1937, when Joyce West wrote in the September issue of the NZ Railways Magazine how she found Tauranga to be ‘The Riviera of the North’.

“Tauranga is colourful,” writes Joyce. “Perhaps that is the first impression which the casual visitor gains. Its beauty is far removed from half-tones and pastel shades and mistiness.

“The harbour is sapphire and emerald, shoaling to amethyst; the hills behind are cut in a clear blue silhouette. The green and white and orange launches lie at anchor; triangles of sail drift like white butterflies against the blue. The gardens of Herries Park, by the railway, along the waterfront, blaze in masses of blue and gold and scarlet.

“The greens run the whole gamut of the colour card from pines and palms to the delicate brightfulness of English elms and aspens.

“The early settlers of Tauranga must have been prodigal planters of trees. There are giant Norfolk pines, and four-square oaks, elms and aspens, and avenues of walnuts. At Christmas, the pohutukawa glows warm and red, and then the Australian scarlet gum flaunts its scarlet banners.

“Here, in season, the jacaranda breaks into blossom as blue as heaven; there are pink and white oleanders, and the blood-red blooms of the hybiscus, and the bougainvillia spreading its purple cloak like careless royalty. In autumn the exotics are suddenly bronze and gold and russet, and the persimmon hangs its fairy apples upon its leafless limbs. Winter is the season of the flaming poinsettia, and the orange trees glow with golden globes like Christmas trees decked out too early.”

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