Poplar saga has positive denouement

Some of the Lombardy poplars along Lake Esplanade which an arborist has recommended the council...
Some of the Lombardy poplars along Lake Esplanade which an arborist has recommended the council replace with more robust and longer living trees. Photo by Christina McDonald.
While in New Zealand, German tourist Paul Zeller had his car crushed by a 120-year-old Lombardy poplar and now arrangements have been made for him to plant native trees, some of which could live for 1000 years.

Mr Zeller (18) was enjoying a reunion in Queenstown with friends he had worked with in Blenheim when severe winds

blew down the tree on Lake Esplanade where his car was legally parked.

He and travelling partner Nico Reiner, also 18 and from Germany, discovered the written-off car the next morning, January 18, and found their third-party insurance did not cover such incidents.

A week after the tree fell, the Otago Daily Times reported the two men had approached the Queenstown Lakes District Council with a plea for the council to pay the car's value of $1400.

The men said they were told by a council representative it was not the council's responsibility.

After their story appeared in the ODT, a travel specialist based in the Netherlands offered to give the men $1400.

Andrew Morten, of TravelEssence, a New Zealand travel specialist with offices in Germany, the Netherlands and Wellington, sent $1400, which Mr Zeller received last week.

In an email to the ODT, Mr Morten said the company had also ''made arrangements for him [Mr Zeller] to enjoy a guided walk and share in the local legends of the Urewera Rainforest with Te Urewera Treks''.

''Here he will get to plant nine native trees, three of which will live for 1000 years. That seems rather fitting.''

Mr Reiner was planning to return to Germany at the end of the month and the pair had decided not to buy another car together.

Seven cars were damaged when the poplar fell, as was a section of the Lakeside Motel's roof and balcony, and traffic was stopped for two hours.

An arborist determined the tree was affected by white rot and in a report to the council recommended four of the 21 Lombardy poplars in St Omer Park be removed and that there be a staged removal of the rest.

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