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I was sent photos of a tree that had been vandalised in Victoria & later, a sign attached to the tree by Latrobe City Council. The sign reads –
“This tree has been severely vandalized. Trees are significant & valuable assets & belong to the whole community. Every incident of tree vandalism is a direct cost to ratepayers.” It then invites people who may have information to contact the Council.
I love this sign, especially the acknowledgement that public trees belong to the whole community, not just to the person whose house the tree is outside of or the street it is growing in. I think an enormous percentage of the community incorrectly think that the street tree outside is theirs to do what they like with.
I visited the website of Latrobe City Council & found that they also write up incidents of tree vandalism. Here is one from October 2012. The use of ‘bold’ is my emphasis.
“Trees replaced in Church Street, Morwell.
Latrobe City Council’s manager infrastructure operations, Jody O’Kane, said that the trees were damaged late last week.
“The young trees were broken off in a deliberate attack. Officers from the depot replaced the vandalised trees with new trees & the streetscape looks as it should again.
“We appreciate residents reporting incidents of vandalism of Council assets.
Pride in the community is important & the vast majority of citizens respect their environment & feel aggrieved when damage is deliberately inflicted.
We do respond to reports of vandalism in as short a time frame as possible & will continue to maintain the street trees in our community,” Mr O’Kane concluded.”
Latrobe City Council’s approach is one that educates the community that tree vandalism is not acceptable & also is about changing the culture to one that respects trees. If any Council ignores the vandalism incident & rewards by removing the tree, then others in the community know that this is how they can have a street tree removed too.
I’m posting about this because it is the worst example of tree vandalism I have personally seen & because of the great actions by Canterbury Council in response.
I was told of the vandalism in Wonga Street Canterbury, so just out of interest we went to have a look. I was unprepared for what I saw. Nine street trees, all mature Brushbox had been poisoned. Large drill holes were evident in all trees. It was like the person/people who did this thought – …..hmmm, looks too obvious – so they poisoned other trees on both sides of Wonga Street perhaps to disperse any finger pointing from both the Council & the community.
Who knows why they poisoned these trees. I don’t like to stress money when talking of trees as they provide many more benefits than money, but when talking about tree vandalism, I think it is worth focusing on property value & profit.
What we do know is that the vandal/s significantly decreased the value of many properties here, though I doubt they realize this. A lot of people don’t understand that the street tree out front has a big impact on their own property.
A friend who is a Real Estate Agent in the Inner West wrote the following to me recently –
When a buyer looks at a house they also look at the street. Time & time again I hear “I don’t like this street, it’s got no trees.” Streetscape makes a huge difference to property values.
Wonga Street is a busy road so the trees collected particulate matter & helped purify the air for the houses along here. The Brushbox trees being mature looked great once. You can tell from looking at the other untouched trees further along the street. In my opinion Brushbox trees have the ability to turn an ordinary street into something that is grand & that translates into money.
What Canterbury Council has done deserves praise. They have attached a sign to all the trees that says in large red letters – “This tree has been vandalized,” or “This tree has been poisoned” & ask people to contact the Council if they have any information.
They did not use nails to attach the signs, instead using a metal tie that makes it very difficult to remove the sign while at the same time protecting the tree. That the trees are dead or dying & they still took care not to use nails impressed me. It sends a clear message to people about respect & care for trees.
Next, they have not removed the dead or dying trees. I was told by a resident that these signs have been in place for around 3-years. Another said 12-months or more, but they were new to the area, so I can’t be sure.
If I were to poison a street tree it would be because I wanted it gone. A few months to one year before it was removed would not concern me. However, if the tree had signage on it & was to remain insitu for an indeterminate number of years, that would act as a massive deterrent.
Canterbury Council also planted some replacement trees. It appears that they will not remove the poisoned Brushbox until the new Brushbox trees have established to a decent size. I love that they planted the same species of tree.
Leaving the ugly vandalized tree insitu & with signage while the new tree grows takes the power back to the Council & removes any reward the vandal may have thought they would be gaining. I think their approach is excellent. But then again, I am hardline when it comes to community owned trees paid for by the tax-payers dollar. I do not believe anyone has the right to vandalise public trees & that includes radical pruning to keep the street tree a bonsai.
I imagine those who live in the leafy end of Wonga Street hate to pass these dead & dying trees, but at the same time appreciate that the Council has taken action to ensure that this doesn’t travel the length of the street. They are the ones who benefited by the shade of the Brushbox over this record-breaking hot summer. They will also benefit by higher property values if they decide to sell. I know. A Real Estate Agent told me so.
Marrickville Council has given notice that they intend to remove 2 Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis) in Park Road Sydenham outside Sydenham Green. Council gave the following reason for removal -
- “Two trees have been ring barked in an act of vandalism & are dying/ dead.”
They say they will replace them with 2 Brush Box trees (Lophostemon confertus) during 2013 planting season.
It was sad to see these trees. They have lost most of their bark, yet both are producing re-growth. I cannot work out why these trees were vandalized. They do not impede on a view or on the streetscape in any way.
I love that Council are planting Brush Box trees as they are a substantially sized tree that will green up the street as well as proving shade. They are also great for wildlife.
I thank Council for using sticky tape to fix the notification of removal signs to the trees.
The deadline for any submissions ends on Friday 26th April 2013. I will not be putting in a submission. firstname.lastname@example.org
1. A resident of historic Middle Park in Melbourne is fighting energy company CitiPower in a bid to save his 120+ year-old Palm tree (Phoenix canariensis) growing in his front garden. The tree is to be removed to comply with bushfire regulations. Middle Park is a residential suburb situated on Port Phillip Bay. The resident has applied to Heritage Victoria for assistance to save his tree. The energy company argues that the tree is too close to power lines. “The legislation has changed. Previously you could allow for regrowth but now you can’t.” Why cannot aerial bundled cabling be used? http://bit.ly/13myYpP
2. Stonnington Council & Melbourne Water are taking Melbourne’s Simonds Homes family, who own Australia’s fourth largest home-building company, to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal for allegedly breaching a planning permit, which includes the removal of 7 trees & a failure to properly landscape the river’s edge. The house is located on the Yarra River at Toorak. ”The bank of the Yarra River has been mechanically scraped & removed of all vegetation leaving bare earth, which resulted in sediment runoff into the river,” the council order states.” http://bit.ly/YnkxxS
3. 27 Cedar trees planted in 1907 along the northern edge of Adelaide Oval lost their fight to survive the Development Assessment Commission, despite that they were ‘protected’ trees. Adelaide City Council voted to keep the cedars at a Council Meeting in July 2012 & fought a long battle with the community to save these historic trees. http://bit.ly/ZiT6Ye To see the trees – http://bit.ly/132Zx1z
The following are tree vandalism cases reported in the news across Australia this year. What I found interesting was the proactive manner in which the relevant Councils dealt with the issue.
1. Several Spotted gum saplings were vandalized in Olives Reserve, Como in Perth. The City of South Perth will replace the trees & “install a 4-metre tall metal tree on the site with a warning sign explaining the penalties for destroying Council property. The sign will remain until the replacement trees are established.” Interestingly it only costs this Council around $300 per tree to be planted compared with $1,000 for Marrickville Council. http://bit.ly/YYaVId
2. The City of Greater Geelong municipality is under attack from tree vandals killing some trees older than 200-years thought to be for sea views. The Surf Coast Shire released images of a man wearing a beanie as a disguise who was drilling holes in a large Southern Blue gum tree in Lorne. I bet his family could recognize him because the images are very clear. The Council says they will fine up to $160,000 any vandal they catch as well as charge them for the removal & replacement of damaged trees. Here is a nice video of the vandal – a man – drilling the trunk of the Southern Blue gum – http://bit.ly/S4FESf
3. A Kauri pine tree thought to be planted by the Duke of Windsor in 1901 was graffitied in Homestead Park, Forest Lake in Queensland. The park commemorates war veterans, so the police are investigating. http://bit.ly/X9YBXm
4. Two Acacia trees were vandalised in Riverpark, Ashfield in Perth. The Swan River Trust responded with a sign alerting people to the vandalism. “The Riverpark belongs to the whole community & it is unacceptable for selfish individuals to illegally cut back trees & other vegetation to enhance views, create paths or any other purpose.” The Swan River Trust has 7 other vandalism signs erected across Perth. http://bit.ly/12a7Lat
5. Vandals removed 5 new gum tree saplings in Molong Road Gymea Bay that were planted by Sutherland Shire Council. The residents had waited 25-years to have street trees planted & their street upgraded. The residents will eventually be winners, as the vandalised trees will be replaced by 20 new trees as part of the Councils 4 to 1 tree replacement policy. http://bit.ly/15PsE9Q
6. A 20-year-old River red gum has been vandalized in Lapthorne Street Glenelg East in Adelaide. The protected tree had a 2.6-metre circumference & was valued at $26,000+. Holdfast Bay Council is considering installing CCTV cameras after a spate of tree vandalism in August 2012. They have also installed ‘Wanted’ signs near dead poisoned trees in 4 other sites across their municipality. 49 trees were vandalized in 2012 “at a cost of almost $3500.” http://bit.ly/TttgiN
7. A Fig tree at the intersection of Mollison & Boundary Streets West End in Brisbane thought to be between 100-150 years old was poisoned by a vandal/s. Brisbane City Council has put a ‘Shame’ sign on the tree informing the community that the tree was poisoned & asking for information. http://bit.ly/13mTExX
8. A large Plane tree worth $41,786 that stands on Elizabeth Street outside the proposed site for Melbourne CBD’s ‘tallest residential tower’ had half of its canopy illegally lopped & is also suspected of being poisoned. Melbourne City Council is testing to see whether the tree has been poisoned. “The established plane tree was blocking advertising signs for the apartment project on Elizabeth Street that will rise 72 storeys.” Police are investigating. http://bit.ly/15PAD75
9. Ending on a good note, 5 residents will receive a share of $6,640 as a reward for evidence they gave about tree vandalism at the Moorabbin Magistrates Court on what was Melbourne’s Bayside City Council’s first native street tree vandalism prosecution. The Court “imposed a fine & legal & restitution costs totalling $20,817 for the act of vandalism that occurred on 26 December 2010 in Martin Street Brighton.” http://bit.ly/13UYG0o
I forgot to add really local vandalism. In January this year 8 young trees were pulled out & used as kindling to set fire to a picnic table & bench in Ewen Park on the Cooks River. In response, Canterbury Council & community group Friends of Ewen Park planted 8 new eucalyptus trees. On 15th February, 3 of the newly planted trees were uprooted & burnt with dry kindling under a bench in the Ewen Park picnic area.
Last month a lovely Gum tree in Park Road Tempe had all of its bark deliberately chipped off by a man who, when questioned by irate residents, said the tree had cancer. Whether this is what he actually believed or whether he was just trying to fob them off, who knows. The residents were very upset & I am told that both Council & the police were informed.
Local residents had nurtured this tree over the past couple of decades. They planted other trees to help block dust & the noise of trains & traffic of nearby Princes Highway.
Tree knowledgeable friends have said there is a good chance the tree will survive, despite what it has suffered. I hope they are right. If it doesn’t, I hope Marrickville Council will replace this tree with something that has the potential to reach the same height & is as beneficial to wildlife. I know the community would appreciate this as well.
An update about the continued vandalism of trees beside the picnic kiosks at the western side of Tempe Reserve – the last time I wrote about the tree vandalism was 2nd October 2012 – http://bit.ly/R7uM4W
Within the last two weeks the tree that was doing the best has disappeared, leaving only 2 out of the original 7 trees. Council removed, but so far has not replaced the protective tree cage that people took away from around one of the trees.
Even though the trees were small, the birds used them. Many birds also sit on the tree cages.
If I were a gambler I’d be taking bets at how long before the last two trees are destroyed & whether trees will ever be replanted in this location again.
Last April 2012 I wrote about the tree vandalism of the group of seven Eucalypts Marrickville Council planted next to the picnic kiosks & barbeque at the western side of Tempe Reserve. These poor trees had been plucked of leaves & if that wasn’t enough, the protective cage from one was removed & taken around 30-metres away. See – http://bit.ly/IMl2sg
In July 2012 Marrickville Council removed what was left & added more lawn to the vast amount of lawn already here. See – http://bit.ly/P3Djsv
It’s now the end of September & sometime during the last few days vandals removed yet another tree cage & slung it triumphantly on the ground. The tree is still standing, but I doubt it will last long.
Of the original seven trees, three had been vandalized. Now another tree is at risk of being vandalized & another has died. Consider that another two trees down. This leaves only two Eucalypts. These won’t be able to provide the shade & beauty needed in this area of Tempe Reserve, even if they manage to survive.
What was the problem? Were the trees in the way of the cars that should not be driven into this area of the park or is it simply a hatred of trees?
Vandalism costs ratepayers, because planting trees is expensive for Councils. We also lose shade that is essential to any beautiful park. Worse still, this tree vandalism costs the local wildlife food sources & habitat.
5th October 2012 – Marrickville Council have been & taken away the dead tree as well as the tree cage that was removed & slung on the ground. Hopefully they will replace it soon as the poor tree is looking vulnerable without protection & I doubt it will last long left like it is.
I’m happy to share that two replacement street trees, at least 2.2-metres tall, have been recently planted in Calvert Street Marrickville after the last saplings were vandalized.
It’s great to see that Marrickville Council persists in its tree-planting program in this street, despite the repeated efforts by the local tree vandal to damage young trees. One day Calvert Street is going to look green & leafy. I last wrote about this issue here – http://bit.ly/OAH2vX
The City of Stirling Council in inner Perth Western Australia has a fantastic community-led initiative called Adopt-a-Park, where members of the community take on volunteer positions as volunteer rangers.
From the City of Stirling website – “Both the community & the City value clean, well-maintained facilities that are cared for, attractive & safe. However, the actions of a minority who misuse or damage their local park are at odds with those values. Together with other like-minded people, you will be playing an active role in the life of your park, demonstrating to those few that misuse these public green spaces that their behaviour is unacceptable.” How wonderful it this!
There are two roles for volunteers –
1. ”Trusted guardians: who are active in the park.
2. Park neighbours: who are able to watch the park from their home during daylight hours.”
“The objectives of the project are to –
- Reduce anti-social behaviour & vandalism in parks & reserves
- Enhance the general appearance of the City of Stirling’s parks & reserves
- Educate & inform park users of local laws & initiatives, & provide feedback
- Promote & instill community pride in local parks & reserves
- Provide a sustainable future for one of the City’s major assets.”
Volunteers need to apply & be approved by the Council. They are provided with guidelines & suggested solutions to use at the scene, as well as official contacts for when they need to report something. The City of Stirling Council describes the initiative as a solution-focused approach.
Anyone reading this blog will know that I am often upset about the state of our parks, especially those along the Cooks River. People, many who come from other municipalities to enjoy the ambiance & the facilities of the park, treat Tempe Reserve like a tip. They literally toss what they are finished eating out beyond the picnic kiosks, even though a garbage bin is 2-metres away. Balloons are tied to kiosks & just left there. Burning coals are tossed into the river, into garden beds, against tree trunks or onto the lawn. I am told the same happens in Kendrick & Steel Parks also along the Cooks River.
Sports players leave countless plastic bottles scattered around the edges of the playing fields after the game. Fishermen leave lengths of fishing line along the riverbank.
The litter looks ugly & some of it smells. It is grossly polluting to river & has been incredibly harmful causing much suffering to the wildlife. Yet it never stops.
Wouldn’t community guardians be a wonderful solution for this problem? I’ll do it. I know others who would sign up too. We are all very frustrated watching this selfish behaviour happening in our parks. Having the right to peacefully approach park users to address the issue would most likely result in a huge improvement. If they get aggressive, the volunteer would just leave & submit an incident report. It would also stop the cars being driven into the park if Council sent a warning notice through the mail the following week.
I once wore a Council fluorescent yellow hat given to me at a Marrickville Council event into a park & amazingly, people started cleaning up even though all I did was walk past them. Imagine what a Marrickville Council t-shirt & an authority card would accomplish.
I spoke with some Marrickville Council workers recently who said they too are frustrated by the litter in the parks along the river. They said collect by hand 4 garbage bins of litter, including fishing line every day. This is over & above emptying the multiple garbage bins scattered around the park.
We have had bliss over winter, but good weather Saturday week ago brought people back to Tempe Reserve. A visit the following day showed that the barbeque was so disgusting it was unusable. Litter had blown everywhere & hot coals were dumped on the grass. Here we go again.
I fervently believe that it is in the community’s best interests for Marrickville Council to address the issue of litter & destruction of infrastructure & trees in our parks. Every time someone destroys something, the community pays. We pay out of our rates & also by the loss of beauty in what is nationally regarded as a municipality with a severe shortage of green space. This green space is enormously important for our health on a number of levels so if it is destroyed, we pay in this way also.
Of equal importance in my view is the wildlife. They should be able to have safe places for them to live & forage. They should not be navigating a minefield of often-dangerous litter.
What I particularly like about what the City of Stirling is doing is that the program is designed to promote pride in the environment & this could have a number of positive roll-on effects. If people start to consider their impact on the park & on other users of the park, then they also might think twice before dumping their mattress or other unwanted goods in a back street.
The community should not have to have their rates continuously spent on cleaning up after others without anything meaningful done to try & change what are essentially easily changeable behaviours. If this paradigm is not challenged Council will always have a small budget available to improve the streetscapes & parks. Instigating an Adopt a Park initiative will go a long way to stopping the never-ending cycle of selfish behaviours that detract on the enjoyment & usability of our parks & just may improve all our future, wildlife included.