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Pines get the chop to protect drivers on State Highway 1

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The NZ Transport Agency is working hard to remove pine trees from the verge of SH1 in Tawa to prevent potential crashes and disruptions during storms on the busy, strategic route for Wellington.

The move follows an incident on 17 October when four pine trees fell onto the motorway opposite Tawa College in high winds, hitting one vehicle, blocking the motorway north of Wellington city and causing traffic chaos.

While the NZTA was able to mobilise road crews quickly and get one lane open within an hour thanks to road crews clearing the fallen trees, NZTA Operations Manager Mark Owen said the agency was keen to make sure no more trees would fall down on the state highway, potentially causing injuries or blocking this important route into and out of the city.

'Improving the safety of roadsides is a key element of the Government's Safer Journeys strategy and it's an important part of the NZTA's effort to create a safe transport system. After the October 17 storm we inspected the remaining trees and discovered that the gap caused by the fallen pine trees has created instability in the remaining trees on either side that could create a domino effect. For the safety of motorists we decided to remove the remaining 70 pine trees,' Mr Owen said.

'The trees were very tall and very close to Tawa College so the added bonus of this work is that it will remove a safety risk for staff and students,' he added.

NZTA staff had discussed the issue with Tawa College and Wellington City Council (as the trees were on a road reserve) and gained their agreement to remove the non-native trees. The NZTA continues to work closely with Tawa College to make sure lessons aren’t disrupted by the work or noise.

Work started on 23 October and is likely to be completed by 7 November. While the pine trees are being removed, the northbound left lane of SH1 will be closed with a 70kph speed limit in place during the day. 

'We understand that speed limits and lane closures can be frustrating but we can’t risk these pine trees falling onto a vehicle and potentially injuring someone, nor can we risk such an important route for Wellington commuters being blocked in peak time again. We’ve therefore acted promptly and worked hard to make sure that people can drive safely along this important section of SH1.'

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