Aussie council blasts 'sad' attempt by vandals to improve waterfront views

Several trees in the Sydney suburb have been targeted in recent months – and the council is fed up.

Norfolk Pine tree on the Grand Parade in the southern Sydney suburb Brighton-Le-Sands that have been poisoned
Council has identified several trees along the promenade by the beach that have been poisoned by vandals. Source: Bayside Council

It takes a lot to score a waterfront home, particularly in Sydney, Australia's most expensive city. And locals in one suburb are going to extreme lengths to keep their picturesque oceanside views – by allegedly killing off trees that are in the way.

The local council has recently identified three Norfolk Pines on the Grand Parade in the southern Sydney suburb Brighton-Le-Sands that have been poisoned, seemingly by vandals hoping to maximise their views of the water. In addition, a further eight Banksia trees in parkland by the beach were also targeted — some of which cost upwards of $40,000 to replace.

Tree vandalism has ramped up in the area recently, frustrating council members. In the last three years, 139 trees on public land have been deliberately targeted. Mayor Bill Saravinovski is so determined to stop the trend that he's made a vow to plant more trees for every one that's been destroyed.

"It is always sad to see cases like this. But council takes a strong stand against tree vandalism and will be doing all we can to find who was responsible. Council also has a policy of replacing any destroyed tree with two more," he said.

The Bayside Council was first made aware of the recent attack on trees along the promenade in March and immediately began examining CCTV footage from nearby properties to catch the suspected culprits. While it's not clear what they found, the council suspected "tree poisoning" had indeed taken place — a way for vandals to kill off trees with the hopes they'll be removed.

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia this week, a council spokesperson confirmed that at least 10 trees had been poisoned over the past few months. By who, however, remains unknown.

Former Bayside deputy mayor James Macdonald, Councillor Liz Barlow, and Brighton-Le-Sands resident Evelyn with trees that were destroyed in 2021. Source: The Leader/John Veage
A handful of trees were cut down with a chainsaw in 2021. Source: The Leader/John Veage

"The trees [have been] spray painted with the word 'poisoned' to let residents and the public know that council is aware of the vandalism and is investigating," the spokesperson told Yahoo.

"Council continues to monitor the trees. Poisoned trees that will not recover are not necessarily removed. They could be pruned so they continue to provide habitat for local wildlife," they added.

"One of council’s strategies to improve our tree canopy is to plant two new trees for every tree that has been removed or poisoned".

The mayor has also made a move against the perpetrators by placing large containers where trees were illegally cut down with chainsaws in 2021. They have remained there ever since as a constant reminder until new replacement trees mature. The plan, he hopes, is to not only deter tree bandits but to block the view they so desperately craved.

Bayside Council have installed a large container where trees were previously removed which will remain until newly planted trees mature. Source: The Project/Network 10
Bayside Council have installed large containers where trees were previously removed which will remain until newly planted trees mature. Source: The Project/Network 10

Despite the maximum fine for illegal tree removal in NSW being up to $1 million if deemed severe by the Land and Environment Court, the maximum fine amount allowed to be issued by individual councils is significantly less.

In Sydney, the maximum fines associated with tree vandalism is $3,000 while in Melbourne it's slightly more at $3,800. In other states though, fines can be as small as a few hundred dollars, including Perth where a maximum $500 fine applies.

The destructive act has played out across the country, and for the most part, the reason why is the same — to achieve water views. Last year, around 300 native trees and shrubs “mysteriously” vanished from a mansion-line street in Sydney's Lane Cove. Before that Yahoo reported on a separate tree poisoning in Darling Point.

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