Key Points:

An ancient pohutukawa tree described as dangerous by a risk management company almost caused a tragedy when several large branches collapsed on to a busy boardwalk.

The large tree, thought to be more than 100 years old, is on the property of the Takapuna Sands Apartments, which has been battling with the North Shore City Council to get permission to remove it for years.

About 3pm yesterday the large branches broke off the tree and crashed across a boardwalk towards the beachfront, narrowly missing 16 people.

Witnesses say the tree just missed 10 people walking on one side of the boardwalk and six on the other.

The boardwalk was closed for about two hours while the council removed the branches.

Dallon Wilson, 17, was sitting below the boardwalk on the beach with friends when the tree collapsed.

"It just crackled and then came down with a thud, basically. All this dust flew into our eyes.

"I was with two girls, they were screaming, they were just freaking out. They got up and started running away."

One of his friends was skateboarding along the boardwalk at the time and was lucky not to have been hit.

The boardwalk is suspended on tall poles and wends its way through the grove of pohutukawa - four on the apartments' side and more than 20 on North Shore City Council property.

About four years ago one of the trees fell on the council's side and it ordered a report by risk management company Opus. Opus concluded that many of the trees were unsafe.

The council's parks department began removing the trees under the emergency provisions clause of the district plan, but was told by Environmental Services it was not an emergency and it would have to get resource consent to remove more. The consent process is continuing.

Sands owner Colin Griffith said he ordered his own risk management report. It found two of the Sands' trees were also unsafe.

The Sands also applied to the council to remove the trees under the emergency provisions clause but was told it would have to get resource consent, which would involve notifying the public.

Mr Griffith said he wanted to remove the trees right away and not wait for resource consent as there was no way of knowing how long that would take. So four months ago the Sands applied to the council to remove the trees under Department of Labour guidelines, arguing they were a danger to staff who worked there.

It is still battling with the council.

The Sands and the council say they have arborists regularly looking at the trees.

Council resource management group manager Stefan Naude said the Sands arborists could not justify removing the trees under the emergency provisions and would have to get resource consent.

The council was not aware the tree that fell yesterday was a major risk and the boardwalk was not often used by the public.

Sports commentator Murray Deaker, whose ground-floor home in the Sands is directly in front of the boardwalk, says he objected to the boardwalk when it was built in 2001.

The broadcaster, who was Sands chairman at the time, said the boardwalk was an "eyesore" and branches falling from old trees in the area were a worry. "I gave them innumerable warnings and constant pestering. I was making a fool of myself."