Blackheath residents fear falling trees

It is a street living in fear.

Residents of Cross St, Blackheath, know only too well the effects of high winds and tall trees.

Death traps: Residents in front of the house on Cross St, Blackheath, which was destroyed when a radiata pine fell on it in strong winds earlier this month. The trees at the back left are radiata pines.

Death traps: Residents in front of the house on Cross St, Blackheath, which was destroyed when a radiata pine fell on it in strong winds earlier this month. The trees at the back left are radiata pines.

Just over two weeks ago, a house was destroyed and two others badly damaged when a 30-metre tall radiata pine was blown over in the wind.

It's not the first time houses in the street have been destroyed by falling trees. In 2011, at least 10 houses were damaged by radiata pines in a severe wind storm.

No one has been injured yet but the residents fear it's only a matter of time.

Fay McIlwraith, whose home was hit in the incident earlier this month, said it was just luck that residents of all three houses had been out at the time.

She and her husband have had to move out because of structural damage caused by the tree.

Even if she could return, she said, "I'll be fearful now in the slightest breeze".

Janelle Gill and Can Yasmut lost their home in 2011. Ms Gill, who rebuilt but removed all the remaining pines on the property, said: "Once this happens to you, you just want them [the trees] down."

Her partner, Mr Yasmut, said: "We just couldn't live with ourselves if it happened again. It's only a matter of time before a life is lost."

It's only a matter of time before a life is lost.

Can Yasmut

The residents say the situation has become worse since a large subdivision in the next block was cleared of trees which had acted as a wind break.

Ward 1 councillors Don McGregor and Kerry Brown met with the residents last week.

Cr Brown said the removal of many pines, both during the 2011 storm and afterwards, had isolated the remaining trees, many of which have a tall narrow habit.

"They are now exposed without other trees' roots and foliage to help anchor them and distribute the wind force," she said.

Cr McGregor said: "We're going to get even more extreme weather conditions in the future and we really need a liaison committee between emergency services and local government to plan some abatement strategies."

The solution is not straightforward. The trees are on both private and council land.

Some residents want them all removed; others believe only selected trees should be taken down. Many fear that complete removal might only shift the problem to the next block.

The councillors said council staff will meet with the residents of Cross, Romaine and Barrett streets and Clarence Road over the issue.