Storm-toppled trees proving a giant job

Last updated 05:00 26/06/2013
Trees
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ
BRANCHING OUT: Wellington City Council worker Hiroshi Ikeno removes broken branches from a macrocarpa damaged in the storm.

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Thousands of trees felled during last week's storm will take months to clear, the Wellington City Council says.

Some, such as a 4-metre-thick macrocarpa in Ohariu Valley Rd, will require a crane and excavator to cart away, council arboriculture manager David Spencer says.

"Just the size of some of these trees, you need an excavator just to snap them."

There have been more than 600 calls from residents since Thursday night's storm, relating to a few stray branches, to blocked roads and downed powerlines. "I've never seen anything like it," Mr Spencer said.

Some pine groves had lost half their trees and it would take months to clear them all.

"Tinakori Hill will take months, but we are still getting a handle on whether or not we do anything . . . We definitely need to make sure it's safe for people to go through there."

About 100 workers, many pulled from other council departments, had helped clear trees on Friday and about 30 were still working from dawn till dusk.

Ruben Drew heads a team of three who have been clearing trees almost non-stop since the storm.

At the height of the storm, on Thursday night, he was cutting up trees that had fallen across roads and powerlines till 2am.

"It was pretty crazy weather. The intense rain made it very hard to see what you were doing."

The priority initially was clearing roads or dangerous trees, and then getting schools ready to reopen on Monday morning. "We spent most of Sunday trying to open Khandallah Kindergarten. There were three trees leaning over it."

Yesterday, the jobs were more mundane, removing hanging branches too close to powerlines or footpaths and throwing them into the chipper.

One of his crew, James Widerstrom, normally mows lawns for the council but on Friday found himself down on the south coast helping with the cleanup. Since then, he had been on tree removal.

While most of the wood goes into the chipper to be ground into mulch, the bigger logs are simply left on the roadside. "If the owner doesn't want them, we just put them out on the road. People pick them up pretty quick."

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- The Dominion Post

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