Near miss: The falen poplar that struck Sue Knowles' car in December last year


A Queenstown woman who suffered what she calls a near-fatal car accident caused by a falling tree is outraged Queenstown’s council hasn’t erected signs to warn motorists.

Sue Knowles spoke to Mountain Scene after the incident last December, but at the time
didn’t want to be named.

While travelling along Speargrass Flat Road, her vehicle was struck by a falling poplar that she says had rotted at the base.

It impacted the roof first, near her front windscreen, before sliding along it and collecting her mountain bike and rack from the back of the car.

‘‘A second slower and it would have been through the windscreen,’’ she says.

At the time, council committed to ongoing road closures when winds were above 40kmh and commenced an independent inspection earlier this year.

But Knowles feels that isn’t enough, and says it’s unacceptable three months later,  there are no signs alerting motorists to the risks.

‘‘Without fathoming how the winds are accurately estimated to cause a tree to fall and
the timing it takes to erect the signs it seems morally — if not legally — remiss of the council not to be alerting the public,’’ she says.

She’s further concerned given the ‘‘magnificent autumn display’’ the avenue puts on, there’s likely to be increased traffic over the next few weeks.

‘‘Any risk to the public for the sake of a couple of road signs is not a gamble worth  taking.’’

Last month, council received a recommendation to fell 16 trees from the road — media man Sam White says they’re in the process of identifying which trees are on council land and which are on private land.

He says felling should start in a fortnight and take a month to complete.

During that time, White says, council will be sticking to the measures already in place.

‘‘As before, we’ll close it temporarily to all non-residents if winds above 40kmh are forecast until the felling is completed,’’ White says.

‘‘This is based on the latest assessments of the trees, and hence we have not felt the need for additional signage.’’