Storm damage widespread across region

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 22/04/2014
Gargiulo family
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

ANY MAIL?: Dave Winnington, of Mount St, checks his letterbox on the heritage Eucalyptus Viminalis manna gum tree, circa 1914, that came down in the storm. 

heavy rain
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ Zoom
A contractor from Downer cuts through large branches of bluegum tree that blocked the road to the Ngawhatu Pool where a group of people were waiting for the road to be unblocked.
Gargiulo family
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
MESSY: Some of the extensive damage to Jules and Alyson Hobbs’ property caused by a massive fallen redwood tree in Collingwood St. It also damaged two other properties. 

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The chainsaws are busy as the Nelson Tasman region is in mop-up mode after the weather bomb that delivered a wild start to Easter.

Collingwood St was closed yesterday as a 300-tonne Smith's crane, brought from Christchurch, helped remove a storm-blown redwood, which fell into three houses.

The 95-year-old tree, estimated between 35-45 metres tall, came down in the wind wrath on Thursday as gales blew through the city.

Nelson Tree Service owner Richard Walsh, who was at the site helping with the tree extraction, said the tree was attached to the crane, then 6-7-metre sections were cut and lifted out, weighing about six tonnes each.

He had five staff on site to manage the process and it was one of the bigger jobs they had done. They used a 42 inch bar chainsaw to cut through the tree and had to come in from both sides.

Walsh said it was not an easy job because of how the tree had fallen amongst the houses so it had to be carefully and safely lifted, limiting the damage to the properties.

"Really the fact that it was through three houses covered in building debris and sitting quite precariously, it's quite a tricky job, dangerous," he said.

The wood recovered is being sent to Plankville Sawmill in Richmond to be milled and reused.

"There would be some pretty amazing timber in it," said Walsh.

Nelson Tree Service have a large workload ahead of them with the storm cleanup, including work for Downers, Fulton Hogan, and, Nelson College.

"Phenomenal storm really, it's done a lot of damage," said Walsh.

He said it was a relief nobody had been hurt by falling trees.

The historical redwood ripped through Jules Hobbs' home, leaving the house unliveable. Hobbs said the family was still in shock.

"I think underneath it all we had a bit of a shock to the system and we are all pretty happy it happened as it did time-wise. An hour later my children would have been in their bedrooms and those were the rooms that got munted, and if it had been in the evening it would have been a completely different extraction process," he said.

The Hobbs have arranged alternative accommodation until their home is sorted. "We had to move out straight away on Thursday and are not allowed back in the house. We are now staying with friends and in due course it looks like we have a medium to long term rental for six months or however long it takes," said Hobbs.

He said the next step was for a team of builders to go into the house to make parts of it safe and wrap it up, protecting it against the elements. Then assessors and insurance staff would come in and work out what damage has been caused.

He said he was still in the mode of wanting to get the immediate tasks organised as "in time a little bit of stress will be coming my and my family's way as we try and rebuild our lives".

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Hobbs' neighbour Richard Grimes said the tree coming down had also been a shock for the neighbourhood.

The tree roots ripped out from his property leaving him a view of the two-metre-wide base of the tree.

He said people had come down to watch the tree removal, which nearly took all day, but had been interesting and "the talk of the neighbourhood".

At Nelson College, contractors were working today to clear up after three large trees were uprooted on Thursday, one damaging nine cars as well as bicycles.

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said the strong gusts hit at lunchtime so students were excited and wanted to see the damage as it happened and some were hit by falling branches. There were no serious injuries.

"We are very lucky no-one was hurt," he said.

The school suffered roof and guttering damage, as well as cracked windows, though O'Shea said it was "nothing major."

O'Shea said people had driven on to the top field while it was muddy to collect wood, which he feared had damaged the field.

The hardest hit part of the Tasman district was the ranges west of the Motueka Valley, where several families remain cut off after floods washed out road access.

Council and civil defence staff visited the isolated locations yesterday afternoon, helicoptering in

to the Baton Valley, the confluence of the Baton and Wangapeka rivers and the Graham Valley.

The Baton River recorded its highest levels since records began, a one-in-50 year flood, and washed away a bridge

Eight Graham Valley residents are stranded at the top of the valley after the Graham River washed away their only access to the outside world on Thursday night. The road had been reopened last November, 16 months after a massive slip closed it.

Golden Bay was also hit hard, with trees uprooted, sheds demolished and the Parapara Esplanade wiped out.

Takaka Hill was closed on Thursday night and reopened on Friday morning. Today slips are still being cleared and the road is down to one lane in places. Drivers are being warned to take care on storm damaged roads.

Nelson City Council communications manager Angela Ricker said council staff had spent the weekend dealing with emergency needs and were now getting on with the cleanup.

"Today is getting down to cleanup business as usual sort of stuff.

"On the weekend all the contractors had their priority to make everything secure and safe so that they could get to the cleanup part of it this week and so that just what they are getting under way with now," she said.

Network Tasman network manager Murray Hendrickson said thousands had their power cut on Thursday, but most were restored over the weekend.

He was anticipating a busy week for Network Tasman as they had about 20 power poles to fix or replace through the region.

The region's deluge has not greatly affected the harvest season. Horticulture consultant Jason Smith said 80 per cent of the apple crop was harvested and the kiwifruit harvest would not start until next month

- Nelson

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