Close call: the remains of a Speargrass Flat Rd poplar after it failed last year, sapping a bike and bike rack off a passing car on its way down


Sixteen trees along Queenstown’s Speargrass Flat Road look destined for the chop after a poplar failed last year, connecting with a passing car.

In December, the driver, who didn’t want to be named, told Mountain Scene the poplar fell while they were driving along the road, between Domain Rd and Lower Shotover Rd.

It damaged the roof of their vehicle, near the front windscreen, scraped along it and  snapped a bike and bike rack off the rear of the vehicle.

Subsequently, Queenstown’s council enacted ongoing temporary road closures when wind was forecast above 40kmh and sent an arborist to complete an initial inspection of the trees — last looked at a year ago.

The report from a second independent inspection was received by council last week,  recommending the removal of 16 trees.

But council spokesman Sam White says there’s some work to do before that can  happen.

Council’s got to work out whether each tree’s on council or privately-owned land and, simultaneously, establish a work programme to set out timeframes and public notifications required.

‘‘Our intention is to complete this work, some of which includes a legal process, as soon as possible.’’

White says the council will continue to monitor that stretch of road and enact closures if high winds hit.

City Hall’s also looking at developing a long-term strategy for monitoring, possible  further removals and a replanting programme.

‘‘It will enable us to consider trees along Speargrass Flat Rd that we haven’t yet been able to inspect due to access issues — some of them are completely surrounded by hawthorn hedges — [and] we will invite community input as we develop the  management plan.’’

Meantime, submissions closed last month on council’s 2022 draft tree policy.

While the majority of submitters were neutral on the draft policy, most were in favour of council’s plan to plant more native trees, some asked for more public consultation on tree removal and one woman asked for public safety to be prioritised.

In her submission she says she witnessed a ‘‘near-fatal accident’’ involving her children when part of a tree fell where they were playing.

White says council agrees public safety should be the number one priority.

Following that specific incident, one stem, onto which a rope-swing was attached, fell from the three-stem willow — the two remaining stems were removed the next day, White says.