Locals point fingers on millionaires' row as ‘magnificent’ 90-year-old trees POISONED

Police are collecting CCTV and council has promised to do 'everything in its power' to catch the offenders.

An exclusive Sydney street with expansive views of the Harbour Bridge has been rocked by savage acts of “vandalism”.

Theories have been shared between Darling Point residents as to why two 90-year-old fig trees roughly 200 metres apart were poisoned. Those living by one of the trees at the high end of Mona Road have suspicions someone with property down the southern end may have attacked their tree as well as part of a “decoy tactic” to “divert attention” from their efforts to improve their view.

“Is it the people here, or the people down there? We don’t know. It’s a mystery,” an apartment owner who did not wish to be named told Yahoo News Australia. “Both trees have been (attacked) in exactly the same manner, so someone knows exactly what they’re doing to kill them.”

Left - a letter sent to residents. A denuded tree can be seen in the background. Right - the tree on the bottom of the street. Leaves can be seen on cars and the street.
Council erected signs and wrote to residents after two trees were poisoned in Darling Point. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Cars blanketed by leaves after trees filled with poison

Around 40 attack marks appear to have been created in the trees which were later poisoned — acts that likely took several minutes to complete.

A man who lives directly underneath one of the dead trees said he returned from overseas at the end of October to find a blanket of leaves covering the ground so thick that parked cars became bogged. “It’s very sad,” he said. A cleaner servicing one of the apartments said the tree had been “thick with leaves” one week and then almost completely bare the next.

The trees have shaded generations of Sydneysiders, and provided habitat for the city’s native flying foxes and birdlife. They also bare the marks of the city’s colourful history, with letters and words carved into the tree trunks long ago.

Looking between two buildings on Mona Road, it's possible to see the Harbour Bridge in the background.
Residents who don't have trees blocking their views can see all the way to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Tree vandalism a problem in Sydney's leafy suburbs

In response to the recent vandalism, Woollahra Council erected two large banners across the branches of the dying trees, and letterboxed the area, saying it was working with police to gather evidence.

"If you have information which may assist, please forward to Council. All information received will remain confidential" its leaflet reads.

The resident at the high end of the street said he hoped the banners didn’t make neighbours think people in his building were responsible. “Nobody in our building knows anything about it, we have views to the Harbour on the other side,” he said.

A close up into the branches showing Woollarha Council's sign.
Woollarha Council's has draped signs between branches calling for help. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Tree vandalism is not uncommon in the Woollahra Council area, and removing pesky foliage to reveal harbour views can add significant value to homes. Apartments on Mona Road fetch some of Australia’s highest prices and have soared over 14 per cent in just four years. Recent sales include a four bedroom home for $10 million and a three bedroom property for $16 million, according to Domain.

In an unrelated event in 2015 three trees were poisoned in Double Bay, while in 2016 a man tried to dupe workers into cutting down protected trees by tying white bands around them to indicate they were scheduled for removal. It’s unclear what motivated the recent poisonings in Darling Point as dozens of apartments on Mona Road and the surrounding area look down past the trees.

Will Woollahra Council pursue the tree vandals?

NSW Police told Yahoo it is not directly investigating the matter, but it is assisting council with its efforts to secure CCTV footage of the poisonings.

A Darling Point resident points to marks in one of the Mona Road trees. Source: Michael Dahlstrom
A Darling Point resident points to marks in one of the Mona Road trees. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

If the perpetrators are caught, Woollahra Council has threatened to take them to the Land and Environment Court and seek the maximum penalty which could be up to $1.1 million.

But how far council is willing to go to catch the perpetrators or save the tree remains unclear. A spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the council would not provide anyone to discuss its investigation, and did not respond to several direct questions.

In a statement council said residents were “shocked at the attempted destruction of these magnificent public assets”.

“Council will be doing everything in its power to ensure the offenders are identified and prosecuted,” it added.

Street trees are set to be more important than ever across the Woollahra area. Last year, council came to agreement with an exclusive golf course, allowing it to lop down 595 trees as part of a controversial compromise.

Trees on city streets are vital for reducing the worsening impact of climate change, and keeping residents cool during the summer months.

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