Turkish Oaks were felled along Harewood Avenue.PICTURE: PROFESSOR DIRK BELLSTEDT

Cllr Greg Peck, Ward 15 Somerset West

In reply to the letter in Bolander (“Why no September 20), I would like to correct some statements in the letter.

Mr Zabileon is not an official of the City of Cape Town. He is a staff member of the contractor appointed to fell trees with PSHBB.

There have been a number of public meetings. I arranged a meeting on May 22, 2022 at which Invasive species officials explained the PSHBB process, and that the Oaks along Harewood had to be removed.

Meetings were held in the Town Hall and at the Helderberg Nature Reserve to inform residents about the CoCT plans to manage the PSHBB infestation.

I have met with many groups of resident to discuss/ explain the procedures the CoCT is using to curb the spread of the PSHBB.

As this is a new invasive pest, a lot is still being learned about it, and continuous changes have to be made to the procedures. The CoCT Invasive team is also still learning.

On Thursday September 14, while in a meeting, I received a call at 9.55am re the Harewood trees.

I called Mr Tyandela from Parks and asked that he go out there immediately and to contact Mr Phalanndwa (Invasive Species), which was done.

After my meeting I called Mr Phalanndwa to check if he had been called by Mr Tyandle. I still had further meetings all day but did contact Mr Phalanndwa three times in the afternoon to get updates.

He did travel out to Somerset West and agreed that no further Turkish oaks should be removed.

At the meeting on Tuesday September 19 that I called to engage with residents of Helderberg Estate, led by Professor Dirk Bellstedt, the following was discussed and agreed:

* The invasive species unit apologised for the felling of five Turkish oaks. He did state that they are infested with PSHBB but are not on the Fabi PSHBB list (Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute). Three Turkish Oaks were damaged and had to be felled while felling a row of large Beefwood trees along a boundary wall on Harewood Avenue. The remaining English Oaks and the poplars on Harewood Avenue and next to the park will be removed.

* It was agreed that there will be a moratorium on felling of Turkish Oaks and the Invasive Species team will monitor the trees, and if the infestation increases a meeting will be called with Invasive Species, Professor Bellstedt and me to decide on the way forward.

* The COCT Invasive species team will discuss the status of Turkish Oaks with regard to (a) Invasive list b) re the PSHBB Fabi list and with researchers at the University of Stellenbosch.

There was a request that resident not to engage with the contractor or their staff who are felling trees.

The machinery they work with is noisy and dangerous. They are all wearing protective ear mufflers so do not always hear or see a person hear to them.

Please call me (the councillor in who ward they live) or the invasive species unit of the CoCT to report their concerns.

A list of contractors who have been trained by the CoCT to fell and remove trees on private property, invested with PSHBB, will be released soon.

Once available I will distribute the list so residents can then contact these contractors to remove trees on their property.

Cllr Greg Peck can be contacted at 082 448 1218 or gregory.peck@capetown.gov.za

Professor Dirk Bellstedt, Somerset West

There has been new information about the PSHB infestation and there have been a number of developments, some of which are good news others bad news, which I would like to update you on.

I recently had a meeting with Mashudu Palanndwa from the Alien Invasives Unit of the City of Cape Town, during which he informed me that the Forest and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute (FABI) of Pretoria University have updated their host lists.

Besides the previous categories of reproductive and non-reproductive hosts, they have now added a category of super reproducers.

These include English oaks (Quercus rubor), box elders, weeping willows and castor beans.

The Cape Town Invasives Unit is now actively removing these trees from all public spaces to reduce the number of multiplier trees, specifically in our area, English oaks and box elders.

Council no longer removes any trees on private property, that is now entirely for your own account.

Effectively what this means is that council have admitted that they cannot contain the beetle any longer by pre-emptive cutting down of trees.

We have always contended that without treatment this pest would not be brought under control.

Then the Cape Town Invasives Unit have now finally concluded that the lists that FABI have drawn up, which are largely based on what has been happening in Gauteng, do not apply in our area and they need to be adapted for our area.

Trees like pin oaks hardly get infested here, while in Gauteng are heavily infested, and so these trees will not be removed.

There are many more that fall into this category, but at least council don’t blindly apply those lists to our area any longer.

It would interest you all that all plane trees, London and American planes, will no longer be felled by council as they have decided that the trees apparently have quite good resistance against PSHB and its associated fungus in spite of looking terrible after the borer drilled in the trees.

I know many of you have treated your plane trees. I have seen a massive recovery in plane trees that have been treated in the area, with wounds healing on the bark.

Untreated trees are certainly worse off, and it will be interesting to see what happens in this summer. Here and there I see planes with some die-back, but they certainly are not dying.

The removal of the massive plane trees by council in Prospect Avenue, could therefore have been averted and was completely unnecessary.

Council is also removing beefwoods from pavements and grey poplars from parks and river courses.

Here in Helderberg Estate, in Harewood Park, contractors of the Alien Invasive Species Unit have felled at least 50 poplars over the past three weeks and they intend removing more from the park.

Besides being heavily infested with PSBH, these poplars are on the NEMBA alien invaders list so opposition to this has little chance of success.

However, there is one important tree that everyone needs to know the rules about, and that is the Turkish oak.

Turkish oaks are resistant to mildew and stem rot and were planted, especially in Stellenbosch, for this very reason. They do get infested with PSHB, but they are showing good resistance against it.

Early last Thursday morning, residents woke up to council contractors felling the Turkish oaks along Harewood Avenue, the very ones that were left after the removal of the historic English Oak Avenue.

An immediate protest by residents followed and the contractor was blocked from removing more trees. An ugly scene developed with the police arriving and eventually someone arrived from the City Parks Department.

It was agreed to not continue with the removal of the Turkish oaks. A meeting was then organised by Councillor Gregory Peck and held on Tuesday September 19, in council chambers in Andries Pretorius Street, with many residents in attendance and also Parks Department officials on Skype and Mashudu Palanndwa as representative of the Alien Invasive Species Unit.

It was then announced by Mr Palanndwa that the Turkish oaks had been incorrectly identified as English Oaks. He apologised profusely to residents for the misunderstanding and confirmed that they were NOT on the list of trees to be removed.

Unfortunately nine almost-30-year-old Turkish Oaks were however felled. Residents were correct in stopping the removal of the Turkish oaks.

I would like to point out to all residents that Turkish oaks are not to be removed. Contractors are paid for tree removal and it appears that they are keen to cut down trees because they get paid for the removal, so residents need to be vigilant when they are in the area.

Turkish oaks are “no-go” and there are quite a few that have been planted in Somerset West.

* Professor Dirk Bellstedt is Emeritus Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Stellenbosch University, and a resident of Somerset West

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