Auckland early childcare centre to pay more than $200,000 after tree toppled on young children

An Auckland childcare centre has been ordered to pay more than $200,000 in fines and emotional harm reparations, after a giant eucalyptus tree in its playground came crashing down on top of young children. 

At least 30 children were playing outside at Discoveries Educare on Newmarket's Gillies Ave, when the 12-metre-tall tree fell, crushing playground toys.

Four children aged under four-years-old received serious to minor injuries. 

On Friday in the Auckland District Court, a victim impact statement was read out by Tiffany Cooper, acting as a spokesperson on behalf of one of the toddler's parents.

The court heard how the two-year-old boy had suffered not only physical injuries, but was still haunted by the incident. 

"Although his injuries had started to heal well, he refused to go to kindergarten because he was too scared to do so," she told the court. "He doesn't like going near live trees either". 

WorkSafe brought the prosecution against Discoveries Educare for failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers and the children. 

The 2m round tree was a detectable hazard and had died some years before it fell, WorkSafe says.  

On Friday, Judge Eddie Paul said the kindergarten had a duty of care to the preschoolers. 

"The victims in this case were vulnerable pre-school children who are not alert to any potential hazards involving trees on their playground area," he said. "Those children and their parents were entitled to rely on the centre staff members to keep them safe."

A second party, property owner Heng Tong Investment, was also in court on Friday, and were ordered to pay more than $122,000 in fines and emotional harm reparation. 

Discoveries Educare Limited has been ordered to pay a fine of nearly $210,000 and more than $46,000 to the children's families for emotional harm.