Paul and Melody Wilson fear the entire job could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Photo / Troy Baker
By Whakatane Beacon
A couple from Ōhope is hoping the Earthquake Commission will help cover the cost of removing a massive tree being felled behind their Pohutukawa Avenue home this week.
A huge 170-ton capacity crane has been brought in to remove the tree and Melody and Paul Wilson fear the entire job could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Their insurance company has already told them the removal of the pohutukawa tree is not covered and now they are hoping EQC will cover the cost, which they fear could top $60,000 when complete.
They have already coughed up for the hire of the crane.
The retired couple have been living in rented accommodation for a month because their house is deemed in “imminent danger” until the tree is gone.
The tree is one of many similar-sized and aged trees growing along the escarpment behind Pohutukawa Avenue.
Andersen’s Tree Services is removing the tree, estimated to be 35 tonnes, in a job that is drawing much attention because of the size of the crane involved.
“The crane alone is $35,000 to $40,000,” Peter Andersen said.
“It’s a $50,000 project all up.”
He said the tree had split down the middle and the root structure was compromised because of the ground conditions and the high winds found the weakness in the tree.
A huge 170-ton capacity crane has been brought in to remove the tree. Photo / Troy Baker
The Wilsons said the tree initially cracked on June 13, a very windy and rainy day.
“That night at 10.30, we awoke to a crashing sound, and it had come down,” Melody said.
“The insurance won’t cover it because it hasn’t damaged the house. EQC, which is also in your insurance policy, won’t insure it because it is more than eight meters from the house,” said Paul.
The couple said they were still hoping EQC would assist, and it was sending a valuer out.
“We are just putting it all on EQC now.
“We had the geotech engineer come out, so fingers crossed,” Melody said.
Andersen said the recent stormy weather was impacting trees in the district.
“Andersen’s Tree Services has been busy for the last two months with the extreme weather with failed trees around the district: some on roads, some on cars, some on houses, some on sheds and fence.
“It will be a benefit for everyone in the area to check their insurance because some policies are more inclusive than others; that is an issue with all of these houses along here,” he said.
Anderson estimated some of the pohutukawa trees along the ridge could be 120 years old. They chose the large crane to do the job because at its maximum reach of 64m it could lift two tonnes.
The tree cracked during high winds on June 13. Photo / Troy Baker
Andersen said there were two components to what had occurred.
“There is the mechanical sail of the tree on the slope and then the other thing that would cause a tree to fail is the geological stability of the slope.
“It is important that people understand that they may have an arborist tell them that the tree is safe, but you don’t know what is going on underneath, so they need to understand the geological make-up of the escarpment behind their house. “
There were general issues around Whakatāne on the management of pohutukawa trees, he said.
“Within the arborist community [there are those who] are more about preserving the trees at all costs and the other end of the spectrum are those who think if the tree is risky take it out.
“You can reduce risk by pruning a tree, but you can only eliminate risk by removing the tree.”
Whakatane District Council completed a risk assessment of the trees on the Pohutukawa Ave escarpment last year.
Following an initial visual assessment of the trees and vegetation along the escarpment, an arborist, geotechnical engineer and rope access specialist undertook a more detailed physical assessment of various sites on Pohutukawa Ave and at West End.
The assessments, done in collaboration with other escarpment landowners, the Department of Conservation and Ngāti Awa Farms, were intended to confirm or discount any trees’ potential risk to people or homes.
Council general manager community experience Georgina Fletcher said the trees at this property were assessed by the arborist as presenting a medium risk, whereas the geotechnical report concluded the stability risk is high.
The tree that had failed was situated within the boundaries of the property and the council was working closely with the owners to support them through the process of managing the associated risk.