Rotorua Lakes Council says there will need to be a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities after a large tree fell and killed a woman in the city yesterday.

Emergency services were called to the scene about 10.45am, as heavy rain and strong winds pounded the city.

The tree on the corner of Arawa St and Amohia St, known as Spencer's Oak, came down on to the Te Arawa House building and blocked off Amohia St, where the woman was believed to be driving.

The road was closed and diversions put in place as emergency services worked to remove the car. The woman died at the scene.

Contractors work to clear the giant oak on Saturday morning. Photo/Ben Fraser
Contractors work to clear the giant oak on Saturday morning. Photo/Ben Fraser

All staff in the Te Arawa House building were safe, police said.

Several commenters on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page said they thought the tree should have come down years ago.

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"I am aware as many local residents are that arborists have been attending to the tree for many months," one said.

Contractors work to clear the giant oak on Saturday morning. Photo/Ben Fraser
Contractors work to clear the giant oak on Saturday morning. Photo/Ben Fraser

Mel Rika, whose husband works as an arborist, said that quite a few months ago they noticed the bracing on the tree was looking worn and the tree was looking top-heavy.

She said her husband contacted the council and it did get a contractor in to replace the bracing and take off some smaller branches.

The tree was more than 150 years old. Photo/Google Maps
The tree was more than 150 years old. Photo/Google Maps

"My husband said the bracing was far too loose. It wasn't tight enough and it was probably too late for that anyway because it had weakened the union of the tree.

"He thought quite a substantial amount of the tree needed to come down."

She said they would drive past and every time he would say "they need to do something about that tree" and she would tell him it wasn't their concern.

The large tree cracked through its trunk. Photo/Ben Fraser
The large tree cracked through its trunk. Photo/Ben Fraser

"Well, you know, it's kind of become everyone's concern now. Absolute tragedy."

Council acting chief executive Craig Tiriana said checking the oak was part of a notable trees inspections programme.

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A February 2017 report recommended annual inspections and found no major issues with the tree, which was more than 150 years old.

"Following concerns from a local tree specialist in recent months about bracing in the tree, another inspection was done by council's regular contractor. In late September/early October bracing was replaced and some branch reduction was also undertaken," Tiriana said.

"This was a tragic accident and there will need to be a thorough investigation carried out by the appropriate authorities."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick extended her condolences on behalf of the council and the community to the woman's family.

"This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts and thoughts are with the family at this terrible time.

"Right now the focus needs to be supporting the family and wider community who have been affected by this tragedy, and council will do whatever it can to assist."

She said it was too early to speculate on the circumstances of the "tragic accident".

A policewoman among the branches of a tree which fell on top of the Te Arawa House building and a car. Photo/Ben Fraser
A policewoman among the branches of a tree which fell on top of the Te Arawa House building and a car. Photo/Ben Fraser

"I can assure you council will co-operate fully with any investigation undertaken by the relevant authorities.

"This weather event has had an impact across much of the country and unfortunately it has left one Rotorua family dealing with a tragic loss – we can only support them at this time."

A fireman walking past shows how large the tree was. Photo/Ben Fraser
A fireman walking past shows how large the tree was. Photo/Ben Fraser

In May 2000 Don Stafford described Spencer's Oak as one of the city's "most spectacular landmarks".

It was planted in 1888 by the Rev F H Spencer, the first Anglican minister of the newly created parish of Rotorua.