Flight from falling tree revives quake fears

Wendy Steeds enjoying a drink after she ran from under a falling popular in Queenstown.
Wendy Steeds enjoying a drink after she ran from under a falling popular in Queenstown.

As a massive tree on Lake Esplanade started to topple, Christchurch woman Wendy Steeds wondered if she was going to get out of its way.

She and her friend ran as the poplar - at least 25 metres tall - creaked, leaned then slammed on to a road, cars and a motel.

Despite the damage, no-one was injured when the tree crashed down on Friday about 7pm.

Ms Steeds and her friend Sonia Chappell were walking lakeside when the poplar started to go, its roots poked through the surface and the tree fell.

She and her friend, who run a script writing business, were on a break in Queenstown looking for some peace and quiet to work on theatre scripts.

"We had just come out of the Rydges. It was very windy, she [Sonia] turned around and heard a popping sound, a creaking. The tree had just started to tilt, it was an incredible sound, she grabbed me, pushed and said ‘run.'

"We were covered in leaves and dust and coughing and spluttering, the glass was shattered from all the cars."

After the tree fell, people stared open-mouthed then started to help, clearing leaves and branches and yelling in case anyone was trapped.

She said the sudden danger was reminiscent of earthquakes in Christchurch and the fear while running from falling masonry.

"It was the same feeling, the same fear. Am I going to get out of its way? Were there people in those cars? We were yelling at the top of our voices. Was the tree beside it going to come down?"

It was amazing no-one was hurt and an hour before a wedding party posed near the tree for photographs on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, she said.

Auckland-based arborist Samuel Earp, of Greenscene NZ, has assessed the 100-year-old trees for Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Greenscene's risk assessment started on Sunday and finished yesterday.

Council parks manager Mike Weaver said Mr Earp's report was expected by the end of the week and it would be used to make any decisions about the future of other trees in St Omer Park.


The Southland Times