Chris Ndaliso
Senior journalist
1 minute read
9 Dec 2013

Tree issue divides Hillcrest society

Chris Ndaliso

Voices of support emerge for Farias amid chorus of protests

TENSION over felled trees appears to be driving a wedge between members of the Hillcrest community.

Local Caltex garage owner Luis Farias came under fire when he chopped down seven trees — five of them indigenous — that “have been there forever” on the verge in front of his newly-acquired petrol station.

He has since offered to plant 10 trees elsewhere.

Farias, who was paralysed and left without the use of his left leg after being wounded during a robbery, says the trees were felled purely for safety reasons.

He has regained some use of his leg, but still moves with difficulty.

“I too value and appreciate trees. However, I value my safety more,” he told The Witness previously .

Some residents are adamant that having the stinkwood and coral trees cut down in no way improves the security of the area.

The pro-tree group has vowed to keep up an hour-long protest every Saturday morning in front of the petrol station on Old Main Road.

But in e-mails seen by The Witness, it is obvious that there are those that are more than happy that “a dirty old place” has been cleaned up.

Conservation groups are adamant that Farias’s fears of being a crime victim again, hold no water.

Steve Camp, one of the concerned residents, said the trees not only beautified the area, but also provided shelter to commuters waiting for their public transport.

Ward 10 councillor Richard Crouch said: “… the fact remains he broke the law. The local community is outraged by what he did.”

Head of Ethekwini Parks and Recreation Thembinkosi Ngcobo said no one has a right to remove trees from public places as they wish, and a fine is imposed on people who do.