Branch fall a close call

A clean up crew worked to remove the fallen branch from the caravan, which was badly damaged.

A metre-wide tree branch came crashing down onto a caravan at the Horahora Domain last week, narrowly missing the sleeping occupants inside.

“If it (the caravan) had just been another foot forward we would have been hit,” said Margaret Liddell, who was inside the caravan with her husband William when the branch fell at about 11.45pm Tuesday. “Our main concern is we just want the council to do something about those trees, that branch was just so rotten.”

Neighbouring farmer Alan Eason said he has made several phone calls to the Waipa District Council over the last five years complaining about the unsafe state of the trees, requesting that the 50-year-old poplar trees be inspected or removed.

“There’s about eight of them I think, all the same age, that all need removing because they’re all going to start dropping branches… I’ve been to them many times and said to them you know it’s time to do something about it… These people were so lucky that they didn’t get killed.”

The two occupants were lucky to escape uninjured after the branch fell on it in the middle of the night.

Bruce Airey, Community Facilities manager at Waipa District Council said, “Records over the past five years show Council has received no complaints about these trees.

“The tree and others around it were inspected in 2015 after a branch fell on the fence. They were crown cleaned, heavy end-weight branches were removed and they were given a fit bill of health.

“As soon as the removal is complete we will be inspecting other trees on the reserve for deadwood and carrying out any work that is required. (In the meantime) we have put up signage asking people not to camp under the trees.”

Margaret Liddell confirmed she had been contacted by the council, and told that council’s insurance company would be in contact with hers to “work something out”. She was not sure whether the caravan would be written off, adding that her insurance company had seemed concerned that the branch had been rotten.

Liddell confirmed that there were no other mitigating factors to the branch falling. “There was no wind, it was a quiet night. It was just rot.”

The Liddells, from Tauranga, are familiar campers at the Horahora Domain and have stayed at the same location under the tree several times before. Margaret said she hopes the close call will be a wake-up for the council to take a close look at the trees at the Horahora Domain. “I just hope this is enough for them to cut down the other dead trees, with families being there over summer… There was another tree of the same kind, over by the toilets, which looked dead too.”

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