The Port Vila Municipal Council says damage to pavements by two historic oak trees in front of Port Vila Market forced them to cut down the two trees.
The oak trees were landmark trees planted before Vanuatu’s Independence and their cutting down has raised many comments of concern and disappointment on social media.
The public is asking why the council cut down the trees just when Vanuatu is looking forward to celebrating 40 years of Independence on 30 July.
In response, the Port Vila Municipal Council Town Clerk, Peter Sakita, said the oak tree roots were starting to damage the pavement and the council was worried there would be more damage done in the future if the trees were not cut down.
He says the increasing number of vehicles in Port Vila, causing constant traffic jams in the market area was another reason the council believed it had to remove the two oak trees.
The Town Clerk said the council is also looking at creating another bus stop in the market house area which requires the trees removal.
The two huge trees provided shade and cover for market holders and customers entering the market.
They were planted during the period of the Vanuatu’s former Condominium Government before 1980.
They were planted by the late Chief Willie Bongmatur, who served as the first President and founder of the Malvatumauri, Vanuatu’s National Council of Chiefs.
Chief Laan Bongmatur, the son of Chief Willie Bongmatur, says he was “very disappointed” by the cutting down of the two trees.
He says with Vanuatu now preparing to celebrate its 40-years’ of Independence anniversary, it is a time to reflect on the history of the country.
Chief Bongmatur says the two oak trees were “an important piece of Vanuatu’s history” as they had been planted by his father over 40 years ago.
“I am very disappointed to see the two last oak trees planted by my old man have been cut down,” he said.
Town Clerk Mr Sakita says there are more than ten oak trees that were planted in central Port Vila by the elders before Vanuatu’s Independence in 1980.
He says at that time, the oak trees were planted along the coastline where the Port Vila Market Building is today.
He said he remembers seeing Ifira people anchor their canoes under the oak trees at the beach where mothers sell their vegetables and root crops.
He says more than ten of the historic oak trees have now been cut down in the area from the Port Vila Market House to the ANZ Bank building.
Mr Sakita says the council will preserve the wood from the trees and create a memorial. He says the council has appointed two wood carvers who will carve the stem of the oak trees and write a history about them.
VBTC is seeking comment from the market vendors about the removal of the trees.