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Top Energy vegetation training officer Joe Cooper
takes a chainsaw to a Waipapa Rd gum tree in an exercise of nerves and skill.
By gum, fellers.
 Motorists held up on Waipapa Rd last week watched spellbound as Top Energy vegetation trainer Joe Cooper and utility arborists Cameron Finlayson and Hamish Lewis dealt with troublesome gums.
It's the kind of work that makes your mouth go dry - and that's good, says Stephen Pickens who has 34 years' experience in the field.
"It helps you focus. When you take things for granted accidents happen."
Stephen was one of only four arborists in Auckland when he started in the business.
He says they learned their skills by studying mountaineering and abseiling techniques.
Things have changed a lot in 30 years, with innovation making felling and trimming easier.
But you still have to keep your wits about you, he says.
Top Energy is investing $9 million in a vegetation control programme over the next three years because it says about half the outages across the network are tree related.
The company has specialist trimmer crews based at its Kaitaia and Puketona depots and it's training more staff and buying specialist vehicles and equipment.
Once Top Energy has done the initial cut on problem trees owners will be expected to take responsibility for them.
Builders move in
Site establishment is under way for the building of the long-anticipated pedestrian bridge in the Kerikeri Basin.
The Reverend Hirini Kingi and representatives from Ngati Rehia, the Conservation Department, Far North District Council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust attended a blessing of the site recently on the northern end of the footbridge.
During the ceremony Rev Kingi said the site was blessed to soothe the ancestors and to keep it safe for future generations.
Council roads and stormwater manager Richard Green said he thought the ancestors must have been stirring because there had been "a long, hard battle to get the footbridge under way" but he was sure they would now be at rest.
The 65-metre, single-span steel bridge will provide a direct pedestrian link between public conservation land on the northern side and historic places trust land on the southern side of the river.
The work will include pathways and safety lighting to link the bridge with Kerikeri and Landing roads, and the undergrounding of the high-voltage electricity lines that span the basin.
The footbridge is being built by A Line Builders of Kerikeri and is expected to take 16 weeks.
Access to the Conservation Department carpark and Kerikeri River Recreation Reserve and walking track will remain open during that time.
Contract drawings and a montage of the footbridge can be viewed at the Procter Library in Kerikeri.
A budget produced by the Far North District Council, will result in a 3.9 percent average general rate increase if adopted by the council later this month. The council last week announced plans to slash capital and operational spending.
"The council has been spending ahead of development contributions, rates and depreciation for the last five years," said Far North mayor Wayne Brown before deliberations on submissions to the long term council community plan and its budget for the next 12 months.
"It's getting worse and we just can't keep doing this.
"Our income from development contributions has dropped from a projected $9 million to $10m a year to about $1.5m as the impact of the economic recession
kicks in," he said.
"We have been spending more than we have been receiving and making up the difference through borrowing. This is simply not sustainable.
"Starting right now, this council will align expenditure on new growth-related projects with development contributions income as it comes in, initiate only those new projects that attract subsidies or external support, and otherwise confine itself to projects that are already started or that it has a commitment to see through," Mr Brown said.
"We will cut back on borrowing wherever possible and this means reducing the size of our capital programme. We will not leave our future generations an unsustainable legacy of ever increasing debt."
The council has also confirmed reductions in managers' budgets.
This reflects savings of about $11m already achieved  during the last two years.
Mr Brown said the council would also apply intense pressure to external suppliers.
"We're doing our bit to help reduce costs on ratepayers and we expect them to do theirs."
The average increase in the general rate has been targeted to provide for inflation, enable one-off funding to complete road repairs as a result of the 2007 floods, and provide for the establishment of a flood contingency reserve of about $400,000 a year.
The essential storm repair works account for about 1.5 percent of the 3.9 percent average general rate rise, with most of the rest targeted for growth.

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