'Lives at risk' from heritage trees

Last updated 12:58 28/04/2014
Kaitlyn Blomfield

THE MIGHTY HAS FALLEN: The heritage oak tree that blew over at Mark Sherlaw’s property in Domett St, Nelson during the recent storm.

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Lives are at risk from Nelson's storm-battered heritage trees, some of which have outgrown their sites, says a resident.

Mark Sherlaw's Domett St property has a large oak tree sprawled across it, after it was uprooted in the storm that caused havoc across the Nelson region on April 17.

Sherlaw said he had been concerned about the heritage-listed tree for a long time, and had visited the Nelson City Council because the tree was ruining his roof.

"There were branches crashing down on the roof, and leaves always blocked the gutters. The council told me not to worry, it will never blow over."

He said he had asked the council to cut it down but was told this would involve a lengthy and expensive process. He would need a resource consent, public opinion would be sought, and it would cost him $20,000 before he got a decision.

Sherlaw has another listed tree on his property, which he is also concerned about. He said it came close to splitting in the latest storm, and if it took another hit, it could topple on to nearby Maitai School.

The tree had caused damage to his yard and garden, as well as those of his neighbour, former Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio.

Sherlaw said he loved the trees but "they have outgrown their places".

"They are too big for where they are. They have got so big they have become a danger".

He believed that heritage trees were "becoming more important than the people".

Nelson Tree Service Ltd owner-operator Richard Walsh said the city's heritage trees were "super-unpredictable" in storms, but they had withstood many storms in the past.

He agreed with Sherlaw that many did not suit their current surroundings and could pose a threat to lives and property.

"They were planted in fields, people encroached on the trees, and that does become a problem."

Walsh said trees could come down in storms if their root structures were not solid. Sometimes, they had been damaged when people built around them.

He believed that the council was effective in maintaining the trees.

People had asked him for advice on removing heritage trees from their properties, and he had referred them to the council.

He said heritage trees should be protected.

"It would be a shame if people got on the bandwagon and got rid of them."

A Brook St resident has also said the council needs to review its policy for protecting listed trees, after a huge walnut tree was toppled by strong winds, falling close to two homes.

The council's group manager, infrastructure, Alec Louverdis, said the fallen heritage tree on Sherlaw's property would be removed early this week.

He said listed trees were assessed by council contractors every two years, and were removed if they posed a danger.

"Once council has cleared all the trees down around the city and identified the areas and corridors hardest hit by last week's gales, arborists will move in to do a special unscheduled inspection of all listed trees in those areas for damage and report back."

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Decisions on the future of the listed trees would then be made.

Louverdis said the council was dealing with about 200 trees on public land which came down in this month's storm, including six listed trees out of a total of 900 listed trees throughout the city.

The council's commercial forests had also been hit hard, with thousands of trees damaged or felled across 20 hectares.

Numerous trees also fell on private properties around the city.


Listed trees are classed as either local, landscape or heritage, and are listed in the Nelson Resource Management Plan. Their listed status is obtained by using a set criteria called STEM, which takes into account various factors including age, placement and species.

Heritage listing is the strongest level of protection given and requires a plan change to have it removed, which can cost $20,000. Alternatively, a resource consent can be sought to remove the tree, but it would be classed as non-complying and would need to be publicly notified, which could cost around $10,000. -

- Nelson


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