Wild weather wreaks havoc in the treetops

Publish Date : 16 Jun 2022
Pukekawa Auckland Domain tree damage 1
A 150-year old Turkey oak tree succumbs to wild weather conditions at Pukekawa Auckland Domain
Godley Road, Titirangi tree damage
Trees brought down by wild weather on Godley Road, Titirangi
Moray Place, Pt Chevalier tree damage
Tree clean-up contractors tackle a downed tree on Moray Place in Pt Chevalier

A wet and windy week has had council arborists and contractors run off their feet, responding to tree debris and damage, and checking on the region’s urban ngahere.

Regional Arboriculture and Ecology Manager David Stejskal says wet and windy conditions have brought down trees and tree limbs, spread debris and unsettled some of our strongest trees.

“We have received more than 370 requests for tree work since Saturday 11 June – more than a third of these classed as critical.

“Wind gusts of more than 110km/h and very soggy ground conditions mean even the healthiest of trees can come down or become unstable,” says David.

Taking care of tree business

Auckland Council manages public trees through a routine maintenance regime, with all public trees being pruned every five to ten years. This regime coupled with inspection of trees ensures that most of the foreseeable tree failures are addressed. However, severe weather events (like this week’s storm) present a significant challenge for tree stability and even the strongest specimens can be affected.

“When there is a significant increase in the number of tree related requests, like during or after a storm, council staff and our tree work suppliers work collaboratively to address the resulting impact as fast as possible,” says David.

“This includes dedicated staff ranking all requests by priority to ensure the most urgent requests are attended to first.

“The actual work ranges from broken branches to large jobs that require the assistance of cranes and excavators,” he says. “Cleaning up a few hundred requests can take around five to ten working days to get through.”

Critical requests typically involve damage to property or blockage of roads or footpaths.

Mighty Domain Turkey oak succumbs

One of the bigger losses in this week’s storm was an approximately 150-year-old Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) on Domain Drive in Pukekawa Auckland Domain.

Councillor Desley Simpson, Chair of the Auckland Domain Committee, says it is always distressing to see a large and seemingly healthy tree toppled, but there is still some life in this specimen yet.

“One of the things people love about Pukekawa is its collection of large old trees, many planted well over a century ago when the park was first set aside for public use. This is a sad loss for the Domain’s plant collection.

“Nature has a habit of continuously renewing and regenerating, and this tree is being turned to mulch to support the growth of a new generation of young trees that will be planted in the Domain and parks in the wider neighbourhood – a true circle of life story!” she says.

This Turkey oak is one of the older tree specimens in the vicinity and possibly the only one in Pukekawa Auckland Domain. Its planting is believed to date back to the late 1800's, when the Acclimatisation Society set up its collection centre in the park.

Over its life, the tree experienced multiple road and footpath upgrades which were carried out above and within its root plate, making it smaller than would be expected for a tree of such vintage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What to do if you see a downed tree

Trees that have fallen on public land or debris, like branches or foliage, that is causing obstruction or blockages can be reported to the council using our Report a problem tool

Provide as much information as you can, like the location, how badly the tree has been affected or the impact it is having on access, and if there is any danger to life or property. You can upload photos too.

If tree damage is impacting on powerlines, please report via Report a problem and to Vector on 0508 832 867.

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