Dobbing a Tree in, making a complaint

I dobbed a tree in today – went online and made my complaint and I fully expect the relevant department to bring along some serious machinery and do some damage.

While I now feel justified in my action, the result will leave me dismayed … but it had to be done. There was a time that the evergreen Pittosporum irritated me. My view across the harbour was blocked and I felt aggrieved at the intrusion. I even went as far as dreaming of ways to secretly spur on the demise of said tree. Thankfully I kept those urges under wraps because over the past year I’ve come to appreciate a different side to this native specimen and gain a deeper understanding of nature.

Most mornings I awake to chitter chatter from the tree. Mr and Mrs blackbird have made their home in this hub, along with countless other species. Throughout the day a variety of friends visit, each with their own personality.

Perching on the lines alongside the tree they gossip and publicly voice opinions – no anonymous wireless communication for them.

On a stormy day a seagull may stop by to announce the off shore weather conditions. Sparrows titter in the sunshine. A pied kingfisher sits aloof waiting for the moment to swoop on an insect in the valley below. Starlings bully the sparrows to get the fattest worms. And the pīwakawaka entertains with fantail somersaults and cheery tweets.

I’ve come to realise the tree is a refuge and the wires the equivalent of a cafe lined street for the birds. It’s a model of a thriving community with shelter, food and moral support and I benefit too, with joy in watching their antics. No longer does the foliage irritate me, it has become an integral part of my view.

But here’s the rub: the tree is outgrowing its spot – branches are beginning to touch the phone and power pole and I fear that in inclement conditions the lines might be brought down or our homes threatened by a fire.

So, with regret, I’ve reported it to the council knowing the cutting down of the tree will have a catastrophic effect on the residents – including Mrs Blackbird that I have become so fond of. (My blog about her here). Worse still, the cold season is looming so food and alternate shelter are becoming scarce. 

A tree in the right space is a beautiful thing as shown by my image above taken at Riverstone gardens in Oamaru. But the Pittosporum opposite my home was planted so close to the power pole by someone ignorant of the mature size. After the earthquake, a decade ago, the house was demolished and the land, on a hazardous slope, has since been abandoned. So I’ve never been able to have a friendly chat with the neighbour and offer to prune it before the growth got out of hand.

This evergreen foliage would have provided winter protection and a haven for countless critters. What should I do as recompense? I’ll keep dried flower heads in my garden throughout the winter and put out some other appropriate food, but am helpless to know how else to help.  

Reading the paper last week, my attention was caught by a dobbing in of a different kind in another suburb. This one ruffled a lot of feathers and caused a right flutter on twitter.

Someone complained that the vegetable garden of an 80 year old lady in a social housing complex was encroaching on common ground. Communication lines got crossed and a digger was despatched to revert the edible patch to lawn … before the relevant ‘other’ department had consulted the frail gardener. Rare Chinese herbs and roots were destroyed as well as a winter supply of vegetables.

In a few haphazard swings of a digger bucket the physical and mental health benefits for a frail edible gardener were sent into turmoil. 

There was an uproar of public fury. A flurry of emails, including mine, were sent off to the newspaper and council and a petition was raised to complain at this heavy handed approach. Immediate recompense was sought beyond the standard ‘oops we made a mistake’.

I assumed the swift response to the happening, meant everyone was an amiable gardener like myself and was really pleased to hear the following day that new raised vegetable beds had been built; plants donated and Mrs W was getting support. My delight turned to dismay however at the news that the organisation offices were in lockdown to protect employees. So some who decried ‘elder abuse’ towards Mrs W saw fit to send threats to those who wronged her. 

It’s so easy now to get on the internet and write a faceless complaint to an organisation and so hard to remember that behind a publicly announced error are people. We ALL make mistakes and each one of us at some stage will be a ‘complainer’ and also a ‘receiver of a complaint’. This is my take on how we could approach such (written) situations. 

Making a complaint:

  • Send to the correct department
  • Use a polite tone
  • Clearly state the complaint (as few words as possible, rambling confuses)
  • Suggest any ideas for recompense
  • Sign off kindly
  • Be optimistic that the situation will be dealt with
  • Follow up calmly if it is not

Receiving a complaint:

  • Read with an open mind
  • See past any ‘aggressive tone’ in the wording
  • Understand the complaint
  • Consider suggestions for recompense
  • Decide on how to address the ‘wrong’ and act
  • Respond positively to complainant

If we have to make a complaint let’s at least do so aware of the impact to others and in a manner that contributes positively to thriving communities.

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