Poisoned lakeside trees felled by council

Poplar trees near the shoreline of Lake Wānaka at Beacon Point, as they appeared last week before...
Poplar trees near the shoreline of Lake Wānaka at Beacon Point, as they appeared last week before they were felled by the QLDC. PHOTOS: REGAN HARRIS
A stand of 43 trees lining the shores of Lake Wānaka was deliberately poisoned, the council has said.

In a Facebook post last week, the Queenstown Lakes District Council said the death of the 43 poplar trees at Beacon Point was "beyond disappointing".

An operation to fell and remove all of the trees began on Monday and was expected to take four days to complete, resulting in a temporary closure "at the end of Beacon Point Rd", the statement read.

"There wouldn’t be a needfor this operation if it wasn’t for the act of vandalism to these poplar trees which now pose a risk to the health and safety of track users," the Facebook post read.

The stand of dead trees occupied an area of Beacon Point frequented by pedestrians and vehicles, tucked between the shoreline and a stretch of Beacon Point Rd.

When viewed last week, several of the trees were already in a state of collapse, some on a lean and others with snapped limbs.

A QLDC spokesperson said they council were first alerted to the possible poisoning of the trees in January 2022.

"An inspection at the time by the council arborist identified a group of mature poplar trees with the majority exhibiting signs of advanced decline."

Dead poplars at Beacon Point.
Dead poplars at Beacon Point.
One multi-stemmed tree was found to have drill holes, leading the arborist to conclude the surrounding trees had either been targeted with "a specific herbicide such as one that could be painted on to bark", or the poison had spread through their root systems over time.

"At that time, QLDC’s arborist followed up his assessment by sending letters to surrounding residents requesting further information but we were unable to obtain sufficient evidence to take further enforcement action."

The trees were examined in February this year, which led to the decision to fell them this week.

An investigation into the deaths was effectively closed in March 2022, but the QLDC welcomed those with any additional information to come forward.

"Sadly, it’s often hard to identify individuals who’ve poisoned trees unless they come forward or we have video evidence.

"Anyone noticing suspicious activity is encouraged to report it to QLDC customer services so it can be properly investigated."

The spokesperson said the cost of the felling work was expected to be around $20,000 and would be covered by an existing QLDC parks and open spaces budget.\