The owner of a historic Fendalton property says he had no choice but to cut down a forest of 80-year-old trees, angering local residents.
Richard Peebles is part-owner of The Birchs estate on Garden Rd, a property fondly known by neighbours as The Forest.
Once home to native trees and bird life, the 2604 sq m section is now littered with the carnage created by a demolition crew last week.
One resident who did not want to be named said: "It was done by stealth. It started at about 7am on a Saturday morning and I think it was deliberate so as to obviously go in and get it done before anyone could stop them."
The man said: "World War Three almost erupted here."
Mr Peebles said some residents had "expressed their disappointment" at the loss of the trees.
"These people wrote all sorts of things on the footpath."
He would not go into what was written, except to say it was about "greedy developers."
"We're not nasty developers at all, we're just ordinary people trying to build ourselves a home to live in."
One resident who was "absolutely devastated" said some of the trees were at least 80 and 100 years old.
"They were beautiful trees, lovely specimens."
There were southern rata, kauri, native broom and a big copper beech tree which all the neighbours were shocked to fee felled.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said: "I knew it needed to be cleared out but no one expected them to be just massacred like that."
She said the estate's former owner, George Malcolm, was a Ministry of Works landscape architect.
Mr Malcolm, who passed away in January, had lived in the house for more than 50 years and had a love of plants and trees, she said.
His garden became home to many birds, including wood pigeons and bellbirds.
Elizabeth McEwan lives on the other side of the Wairarapa Stream which runs behind the estate.
She said: "On the Sunday [after the tree felling] the wood pigeons flew in for their tree but it wasn't there, so they sat in the middle of the mess."
Resident John Stanley was one of many to stop and stare at the "blatantly destructive" work.
"They were just pulling trees out like onions. I was just absolutely disgusted."
Mr Stanley approached a woman watching the scene from a car, who he believed was one of the new owners.
"I asked her what the story was and she said: 'Get a life,' and drove off."
Mr Peebles did not have a response to residents' feelings about the dramatic tree felling, except to say: "Maybe if they wanted to keep it as a bush they should've bought it."
Not everyone in the area was against the clearance, he said.
A former neighbour of the estate who sold his house last year told Mr Peebles they had put up with a tree shading their lounge window for decades.
"He said: 'We waited 30 years for the old chap to chop it down. He refused to trim any trees and they just grew wild."'
Mr Peebles said the garden was overgrown and tree roots were pushing up neighbours' fences and foundations.
"You're in the middle of a high-residential area and you've got trees shading two or three neighbours," he said.
Some residents are angry and worried about the consequences of ripping large trees from the water's edge.
"We're very concerned about the riverbank because that's a flood plain along there," said one woman.
But Mr Peebles said a geo-technical report showed no weakness in that area.
He said the trees along the water front were rotten and broke apart when the workers removed them.
While residents said the new owners have the right to clear the property, they would have appreciated some consultation or warning.