Horses 'at risk' in tree-cutting stoush

Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014

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A Wairakei resident says her competition horses could have been killed after a tree-felling gang turned up without notice to clear a path for a new powerline.

Bryar Kirkeby, who is involved in the local equestrian scene, said that while power company Unison Networks informed her that the trees were to be removed outside her Palmer Mill Rd section at some stage, no notification had been given as to when.

Unison Networks hired P & D Trees contractors to remove the trees to make way for a controversial powerline extension, which Fairfax Media highlighted in March last year.

Ms Kirkeby said she expected Unison to let her know before work began.

"My parents heard chainsaws as they were leaving for work and went out to ask what was happening, and the contractors said they were cutting the trees down," she said. "I was still in bed and had two of my really good competition horses in the front paddock, which were right under the trees. I thought it was absolutely disgusting that they had given us no notice."

She claimed that contractors continued to use chainsaws while she tried to remove her horses to a safer paddock.

"They carried on cutting down trees when I was in the paddock with the horses galloping around, running into me, shaking and snorting which is a flight animal's final danger signal to their herd," she said. "They should have given us notice so we could have taken them off the property. We could have been out or away and if I hadn't been there, they would have broken through all the fences and cut up their legs and have to have been put down; I would have been heartbroken."

Unison customer care manager Danny Gough said it was regrettable residents had not been informed but said contractors disputed the claim that trees were being felled before the horses were removed.

"While it was [desirable] to let people know work was commencing, there appears to have been a communication breakdown and that is disappointing," he said. "Contractors, however, informed us no tree-felling work commenced before and when the horses were being moved. They are disappointed at these accusations as they are, from their perspective, entirely untrue.

"They are adamant their conduct had been professional at all times and ensuring the safety of people and animals was paramount at all times," Mr Gough said.

The work is scheduled to be completed by Friday.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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