Under the cover of darkness in Lorne on Victoria's picturesque coast, it seems not everyone has been tucked up in bed.
Seven trees in one street alone have continually come under attack, forcing the local council to go high tech. The area has been under surveillance day and night.“We installed cameras in the trees to catch the culprits. Views add value to property and that’s why people are doing it," acting Mayor Dean Webster from the Surf Coast Shire said.
“How do you value or replace a 200 year old tree? We want to see it stopped”, he said.More stories from Today Tonight
For years, local Carleen Floyer and her husband were the prime suspects. Trees in their quiet street began to be poisoned at exactly the same time as they started renovating.“It was hard because people were pointing the finger at us," Carleen said.
Neighbour Beatrice Stephens is uncomfortable the offender is most likely someone she knows.“It’s a bit spooky because you don't know what it might lead to, you don't know where it starts and finishes," Beatrice said.
Under the Environment Act, fines of up to $160,000 can be enforced for poisoning trees.According to local real estate agents, it's estimated a house without a view of the ocean would go for around $700,000 but an uninterrupted view adds up to $300,000 to its value.
As coastal development increases, councils around the country are coming up with clever ways to deter tree vandals.
“We’re saying, 'Think again'. If you chop a tree down we'll replace it with a screen which will block more view than your tree did and that screen will stay there until the new tree reaches that height of the original tree”, Mr Webster said.
Mr Webster believes it's only a matter of time before the offender is caught.
“There may be new information with the release of this footage and if I was him I would be nervous”, Mr Webster said.
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