A tree affected by rot which crashed onto a picnic table at Murwillumbah’s new playground at Knox Park on Saturday could have killed several children, according to Tweed shire’s deputy mayor Gary Bagnall.
The tree, extensively rotted at its base, crashed to the ground while families were nearby.
Cr Bagnall said he was told one child had just left the table it landed on and it was lucky no-one was hurt in the incident.
Tweed Shire Council work crews yesterday cleaned up the debris in the adventure playground at the park, which last year underwent a major facelift as part of a staged $1.2 million upgrade to revitalise the precinct popular with youth and families.
Council managers say ‘nature took its course’ but will have arborists look at trees in the playground as a result after Cr Bagnall raised concerns.
The deputy mayor said it was important for an assessment of all trees in the park to be carried out to avoid similar incidents in future.
Late this morning, council announced that an additional inspection of trees at the playground would be undertaken this week.
Council’s manager of recreation services, Stewart Brawley, said council’s arborist conducts ‘regular audits of the site, including fortnightly inspections, because of the close proximity of trees to play equipment’.
‘However, an additional detailed audit will be done this week because there was some evidence of previous termite damage which could have contributed to decay in the fallen tree,’ Mr Brawley said.
‘The playground’s location amid many large established trees, planted as part of a Peace Walk in Knox Park, is a key feature of the playground’s design and this shady and natural setting has been one of the most popular features among members of the public.
‘It was integral to providing essential shade but also to create an inviting and sensory-rich location for the adventure playground,’ he said.
‘Council was also conscious of safety at the site and its arborist inspected all the trees retained as part of the playground development.
‘Our arborist undertakes a fortnightly inspection, checking for any decline in the trees, die back of branches and any works that need to be carried out.’
He said the termite damage and subsequent decay would not have been evident from a visual inspection and could have only been confirmed by a sonic tomograph test, which uses sound waves to determine a tree’s internal structural integrity.
‘If this week’s audit finds any evidence that requires further examination, a consultant could be engaged to complete sonic tomograph testing,’ Mr Brawley said.
He said council parks and gardens staff responded quickly to remove the tree, to ensure public safety, soon after they were notified.
‘All care is taken when tree inspections are carried out but we are dealing with a living organism exposed to natural forces,’ Mr Brawley said.
‘The playground has been extremely well patronised since its opening and the shady and scenic setting has been a leading reason for its popularity,’ he said.