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Elderly woman left to clean up council mess for more than 20 years

Blake Benny
Jessica Dermody
LS pile leaves v2
The debris left outside Lorraine Smith's home from the tree.  Lorraine Smith & Norm Withers

A Christchurch City Council tree on the berm outside an Ilam home is damaging an elderly resident's property.

Lorraine Smith, 82, has been dealing with debris and damage to her Waimairi Rd home from a large Pin Oak tree that was planted on the berm of the street 47 years ago.  

The waste from the tree began causing problems in 1996.

Despite the city council being responsible for the tree, Smith said she and her late husband Selby Smith had paid upwards of $7000 for the continuous clean-up of leaves, acorns and damage to the front section of their property.  

Over the years, the Smiths made multiple trips to EcoDrop with buckets full of acorns and over 30 wool bales of green waste. They even had to get an extra rubbish bin to handle the "extraordinary bulk of work and waste" produced by the tree. 

Smith said the front section was completely renovated to make the tidy-up of leaves from the council tree more manageable.

The tree has damaged pipes and cracked the pavement in front of Smith's property. In 2018, the council replaced the damaged pipes but deep cracks on Smith's front lawn remain.


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Cracks in Lorraine Smith's front yard. Lorraine Smith (Supplied) / Jess Dermody


Smith wrote a letter to the council in 2017. But she said nothing had been done to solve the long-term issues caused by the large tree. She was no longer able to keep up with the volume of work needed to maintain the tree and the damage it causes to her front yard.

Former deputy mayor Norm Withers supports Smith.

"People in our community, the ratepayers, deserve a fair go and this lady, her property been blemished by a tree... it’s time for it to go," Withers said.

City councillor Sam MacDonald, who represents the Waimairi Ward, said tree issues were long-standing in Christchurch.

"Unfortunately, the District Plan is quite restrictive on how we can remove trees. We have asked staff to work with the resident to see if we can get a pragmatic solution."

City council Transport Operations Manager Steffan Thomas, who oversees roading corridor landscaping and asset management, said the policy was to recommend to residents they cover the costs of tree removal, where the reasons for removal were not a permitted activity.

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Leaves piled up outside Lorraine Smith's property Lorraine Smith (Supplied)