Tree-gate: Reprieve for Ladies Mile trees


A public outcry has led to a reprieve for a scenic row of trees along Queenstown’s Ladies Mile.

Infrastructure company Delta announced last week the 29 trees, sitting on private land, were for the axe because they were growing into overhead powerlines.

The trees were to be felled tomorrow.

However, a flurry of phone calls to Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden has led to the company agreeing to hold off – for a week. 

An online petition to save the trees reached almost 1700 signatures tonight.

The late Bill Walker tended the oak, cherry, beech, ash, maple, sweet chestnut and horse chestnut trees on his land for more than 25 years before he was killed in a glider crash in Namibia in 2014.

In last week’s Mountain Scene, his daughter Sonya Walker called on Delta to reverse its decision, despite the family having signed a “no interest” declaration on the trees.

The declaration effectively gave permission for them to be removed.

A summit between Van Uden, council staff  and Delta is organised for Wednesday.

Arrowtown resident Maggie Hillock, meanwhile, has organised a public meeting for Thursday.

Hillock says many people had told her they will chain themselves to the trees to prevent their removal.

“From the reaction we’ve had, not enough public consultation has happened.”

Central Otago wine pioneer Alan Brady – who launched a staunch defence of the trees in a letter to the Scene – told the ODT he had been fielding calls all day last Friday from from people as “outraged” as he was.

One solution was crowdfunding to cover the cost of maintaining the trees, but many people had told him they were an important landscape asset and should be the responsibility of the council, Delta or both.

He understood power company Aurora Energy or its predecessor had moved the lines from the roadside on to the Walker property.

“The trees were already there, so if Aurora didn’t make sufficient allowance for their growth, they should deal with the outcome.”

The ideal outcome was for the lines to be buried, even if it meant a “few dollars extra on power bills”.

Delta’s asset management boss Derek Todd says it’s the tree owners’ responsibility to keep them clear of lines.

In a direct cut-and-paste of what he told the Scene, he says: “We hate having to remove healthy, attractive trees and only do so as a last resort to ensure public safety and reduce the risk of unexpected power outages.”

If the community wants to keep them, an “accountable body” will have to take responsibility for keeping them trimmed.

“It wouldn’t be fair to expect electricity consumers to pay for the ongoing cost of trimming trees on other people’s properties.”

He estimates the annual cost at more than $20,000.

  • A public meeting will be held on Thursday at 6pm at the Lake Hayes walking track car park by the entrance to the Threepwood subdivision

Otago Daily Times