Albizia abatement measure heads to governor’s desk

  • State Sen. Russell Ruderman
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Albizia trees grow along Leilani Street in Hilo.

A bill that would allow property owners to enter neighboring properties to remove dangerous albizia trees needs only the governor’s signature to become law.

Senate Bill 464 authorizes a property owner to enter a vacant adjacent property in order to eradicate albizia trees that could become hazardous to his or her property, without the permission of the vacant property’s owner.

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“This is still just the first part of the effort that started four years ago, when we discovered how dangerous albizias can be,” said state Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Puna Democrat who co-introduced the bill, referring to Tropical Storm Iselle, which caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure in 2014 when high winds stripped limbs from albizias.

The invasive trees are prone to shedding limbs with little provocation. This, combined with their great height, makes them more than a nuisance to surrounding infrastructure, but a menace.

The bill changed little since its introduction. The most substantial changes to its text, made in February, require the concerned property owner to obtain verification from a “tree risk assessment qualification certified arborist” to confirm that the albizias in question would be dangerous if left untreated and could be safely removed without causing injury or damage.

While the bill has always required property owners to make two or more attempts to contact the neighboring property owner within 30 days of entering the property, another change made in February requires the concerned owner also to give written notice to the neighboring owner so pastureland is not mistakenly identified as vacant land. Some ranchers raised concerns during hearings regarding the bill about that possibility.

Ruderman said the bill has been popular among all parties concerned: “Realtors like it; homeowners like it … It never got any no votes.”

“This is a much needed measure to help control the spread of these dangerous trees,” Ruderman said.

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A corresponding bill in the House has not made any progress since late March, although it has until April 11 to pass its third reading in the Senate.

Email Michael Brestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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