Years of complaints to Auckland Council about dangerous tree surrounds have ended in an elderly man being critically injured.
Yesterday morning an elderly man tripped in an open tree surround on Broadway in Newmarket, knocking himself out and was suspected to have fractured his skull.
St John Ambulance confirmed he was transported to Auckland City Hospital in a critical condition just after 10.30am.
The incident comes after the Newmarket Business Association and local retailers have been warning the council about the hazardous surrounds for a number of years.
Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas told the Herald his complaints date back five years, when he started his position.
"The issue of the general maintenance of the precinct goes back years," he said.
"It has been an ongoing issue right from day one in terms of getting any action from the arborist team within council or the people who look after street gardens."
Knoff-Thomas said issues highlighted with the council included open tree surrounds that present a trip hazard, low-lying tree branches, dead trees and pest control.
"All of these issues have been logged, and some re-logged, with council," he said.
"We have been exceedingly patient, but the general feeling is Newmarket's tiny urban forest is being neglected by council."
Knoff-Thomas queried whether it had to take someone to get critically injured for anyone at council to take notice.
"This is simply appalling. The fact [they] have not responded to my email of last week is of concern, and perhaps reflects the lack of interest in addressing these issues – which very obviously are a significant public safety threat."
A retailer who has worked in Newmarket for more than a decade said he was also concerned about the upkeep.
"Council spent a huge amount of money on renovating the street many years ago, but they haven't up kept the greenery," the retailer, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
"I raised the issue in September last year and asked them to fix the magnolias that have never been maintained. But they never got around to doing it. In five months nothing has been done.
"The planters need to be maintained – in filled with soil every now and then, and the trees are also starting to die or have died, so need replacing.
"They just need to get off their backsides and get it fixed."
The retailer said he would just like "the area to look nice".
"My biggest concern is that we promote Newmarket as a premium retail destination, of which we pay significant rates – so come on council, make it beautiful."
Auckland Council head of operational management and maintenance Agnes McCormack said she was very concerned to hear that an elderly man tripped over a tree pit and was injured.
"Our thoughts are with the man and we wish him a full and speedy recovery," she said.
McCormack said Auckland Council contractors attended the site on February 26 to investigate a report that the tree pits on Broadway were in need of a top up.
"When the fill of these pits are low there is a potential tripping hazard and, as such, topping up of tree pits is undertaken as a routine activity.
"Unfortunately this did not eventuate before this accident occurred and we have followed up with our contractor to complete this with urgency," she said.
McCormack said magnolia trees were planted on Broadway as part of a Newmarket upgrade in 2008. A new footpath was also installed on a concrete slab above the tree pits.
"The difference between the top of the pit and the new footpath created a void at the roots of the magnolia trees which our contractors regularly fill with crushed shell.
"Over time this shell infill is dispersed and needs to be topped up by our contractor. Contractors top up the shell during their annual street inspection and as informed by reports from fellow contractors, council staff or locals.
"We are currently exploring options to retrofit the tree pits seeking a more permanent solution to the problem," she said.