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Lawyer objects to unnecessary felling of trees

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014

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A lawyer is objecting to a Queenstown Lakes District Council survey that recommended felling 100-year-old trees in St Omer Park.

Bryce Whiting, who stood unsuccessfully in last year's local election, claims a report to the council that recommended felling four poplars, and the staged removal of remaining 30-metre-high trees, was not subject to the appropriate oversight.

High winds felled a mature Lombardy poplar on January 17, crushing a car parked in Lake Esplanade, damaging other vehicles and destroying a corner of the Lakeside Motel.

Auckland arborist Samuel Earp, of GreensceneNZ, carried out a risk assessment on all the heritage poplars in St Omer Park.

Mr Whiting said four poplars were felled and none appeared to have the level of rot indicated by the report, he said.

"Whatever rot they've got is extremely minimal. It's all very sad actually."

He said the process was flawed and previously committees had oversight of such a report or a decision to appoint a contractor.

Post-election changes at the council included scrapping the finance, community services, infrastructure and strategy committees.

"I think there's real issues around the process. This goes back to doing away with committees. This would previously have gone through the community services committee but now it's just done by staff.

"The whole process has been quite flawed. By doing away with the sub-committees there was no oversight by the elected members."

Mr Earp's assessment used a visual tree analysis and a resistograph, a device that drives a fine drill into wood and measures resistance to detect structural integrity.

The Southland Times asked the council whether the trees were examined once they were felled and whether their condition matched the arborist's report.

A council statement said the assessment was done by a qualified arborist using specialised equipment to detect any internal rot.

"His recommendation was that four of the Lombardy poplars should be removed. This was due to the extent of the internal decay shown by testing, combined with their age and general condition, and the potential risk to the public and property if another tree should fall.

"The council has acted responsibly to remove the four trees associated with the highest risk. We will continue to monitor and assess the rest of the trees in accordance with good practice."

Mr Whiting has urged residents to inspect the trunks and stumps in St Omer Park.

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