An Auckland arborist is expected to complete an assessment of
about 22 trees along Lake Esplanade today - but it is too
soon to say if any need to be felled after a 120-year-old
Lombardy poplar was blown over on Friday night.
The massive tree, which came crashing down from St Omer Park
across Lake Esplanade just before 7pm, instantly became
Queenstown's newest tourist attraction, with a steady stream
of people stopping to take photos of the tree and the damage
GreensceneNZ Ltd arborist Samuel Earp, of Auckland, arrived
in the resort on Saturday morning to assess the remaining
trees - primarily Lombardy poplars - along Lake Esplanade.
He used a resistograph to detect decay in the trunks of the
trees by inserting a needle about 30cm into the trunk to
Low resistance indicated a cavity, he said. Mr Earp said
yesterday it was too soon to analyse data from the trees. The
information would help inform a council decision with regard
Lakeside Motel co-manager Joy Luke said yesterday she was at
a neighbouring property when the tree came down, making ''one
hell of a noise''.
As the tree fell, it clipped the roof of the motel, damaging
it and part of the upper balcony, it smashed one of the
motel's signs and came to rest atop seven cars - two largely
flattened by the impact.
Most of the vehicles damaged had been rental cars, with
replacement vehicles organised by the various companies by
However, one vehicle was owned by a motel employee who was in
the reception area at the time; she watched in horror as her
car was crushed.
The employee and another man were about to walk out the front
reception door as the tree fell, Mrs Luke said.
A woman who had just driven into the car park was the closest
to being injured, being lashed with small branches.
''I just can't believe no-one got injured,'' Mrs Luke said.
The 15-unit, two-storey motel was fully booked on Friday
night. Other damage to the second-floor unit included some
ceiling slumping. Guests in that unit and other end units
were relocated ''as a precaution'', Mrs Luke said.
Council staff and contractors spent most of Saturday removing
debris, cutting up the remains of the tree and disposing of
it using a wood chipper.
Several damaged cars - including one with a tree branch going
through the windscreen and dashboard - remained in the car
park yesterday, but were likely to to be removed today.
The event, considered an ''act of God'', would be covered by
the council's insurance.
The tree which failed on Friday night was affected by white
rot, Mr Earp said.
Trees contained both lignin, which gave it strength, and
cellulose, which gave it flexibility.
White rot meant the lignin had rotted away, leaving
cellulose. Queenstown Lakes District Council parks manager
Mike Weaver said he expected to receive Mr Earp's report
The heritage Lombardy poplars had been assessed regularly and
in 2005 one tree was removed after it was found to have a
high level of decay. The remaining 23 were assessed again in
2007 and had been under ''regular scrutiny'' since then.
In 2009, Queenstown farmer Russell Liggett was killed on
Lower Shotover Rd after a 20m poplar tree was blown down
during high winds, crushing his Toyota Hilux.
In May 2010, the council applied for resource consent to
remove a 30m poplar from St Omer Park because it was deemed a
danger to public safety by an arborist.