Protected trees take toll on homes

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 08:07 23/04/2014
fallen tree
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

TOPPLED TIMBER: Lesley Haddon, left and her neighbour Tracy Scott with the walnut tree classified as a Landscape Tree by the Nelson City Council, which came down during Thursday's storm.

fallen tree
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
ROOF REPAIRS: Graeme and Kate Eden outside their Nelson house that was damaged by a fallen poplar tree.
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A call is being made for the Nelson City Council to review its policy in protecting landscape trees after a huge walnut tree crashed in strong wind close to two homes.

Neighbour Lesley Haddon had spoken out publicly last year about the listed tree at a Brook St property and as recently as three weeks ago had gone to the council to question who would pay for damage if it came down.

In last Thursday’s storm the 14 metre high tree fall, the canopy landing on a shade awning, close to the back door of a home rented by shaken tenants who have just moved from Christchurch’s quake red zone.

‘‘With weather bombs increasingly happening the council is going to have to rethink its policies,’’ said Haddon.

Numerous trees around the region crashed in the powerful winds last Thursday.

In another case, a roadside tree crashed onto a nearby Book valley house causing considerable damage.

Homeowners Graeme and Kate Eden understood a neighbour had raised concerns about the 24-metre poplar tree but the council has no record of any complaint.

Haddon, frightened when the walnut tree in her neighbour Susan Wood-Devlin’s property came crashing down, was also angry that the Nelson City Council had previously not been sympathetic to their concerns about the towering walnut tree.

The council listed it as a landscape tree in 1999 after a previous property owner applied.

‘‘I did not understand why it was protected in the first place, it was not a significant tree and not on public view,’’ said Haddon.

The tree was in a property which is down a long driveway and could not be seen from the road.

Wood-Devlin had supported her call for the tree to be cut down but Haddon said if they had trimmed the tree they risked action under the Resource Management Act.  Haddon was reluctant to pay for an application to have the listing removed when she understood from a council officer that her chances of success were slender.

She said it was sheer luck that the tree did not smash into her house on Thursday.

Now Haddon has written to Nelson city mayor Rachel Reese calling for some common sense when the council considers protecting trees.

For tenant at the property where the walnut tree fall, Tracy Scott, Thursday’s storm brought back memories of the traumatic experiences her family endured in Christchurch that they had moved to Nelson to escape.

She and daughters Blyth, 3, and Eden, 7, have been in the Brook St home just over a month after moving out of their red-zoned home that split in two.  Her mum, Maureen, has come with them, leaving her redzoned home in Redcliffs where her husband, Ian, died in February quake, and they were trapped for four days before the Red Cross reached them.

‘‘It was the hardest three years of my life,’’ said Tracy Scott.

So when a glass of water on the kitchen bench at the Brook St home began rippling and there was a low rumble, she thought she was experiencing a Nelson quake.

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Then she saw the walnut tree.  ‘‘It was rocking towards Lesley’s place, sideways, I wasn’t sure which way it was going to fall, it was like slow motion. Then it came towards the back door with boom.’’

She hurriedly reversed her Isuzu Bighorn from under the shade awning, but was just glad nobody was hurt.

‘‘Obviously the tree was not safe.  It should have come down before.’’

A conifer tree came over the driveway taking out their power and phone for three days.  ‘‘We were prepared, we had candles and torches and cooked on the barbecue.  I didn’t have sewerage in Brighton after the first quake then Blyth was only two months old, I had to get the army to deliver water.

‘‘This has brought back a lot of memories, and survival skills.’’

Haddon said when she went to the council three weeks ago she was told that in a case of property damage when a listed tree came down the council accepted no financial responsibility.

Council communications manager Angela Ricker said today the council acknowledged Haddon’s concern about the tree and the council would pay for its removal.

Asked if the council would review its policy, she said all trees nominated for status were assessed on a case by case basis.

- Nelson

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