One of the poisoned Hill's Figs In Margaret Street Dulwich Hill.

This and one other Hills Fig trees in Margaret Street Dulwich Hill were poisoned by person/s unknown.  Photo taken 2011.  It’s not just newly planted trees that are vandalised. but mature trees as well.

The headline in the Daily Telegraph on 20th October 2015 says, “New trees planted by Marrickville Council have been poisoned, but hard to prosecute vandals.” See –

The article says that of 550 newly planted trees, 40 have already been poisoned.”

That is a loss of $40,000 to the ratepayers of Marrickville municipality.

It is also a loss to our collective future in terms of streetscape beauty, better mental & physical health, happier kids, cooler streets, more pleasant walking experience, birds in the area, pollution uptake & better air quality. Trees bring more benefits & you can read some of these in the page called ‘100 tree facts’ above.

This year Marrickville Council has been attaching a bright orange sign to the stake of vandalised trees that says, “This tree has been vandalised.” I applaud Council for this initiative. Unfortunately, I have seen more vandalised trees that do not have the orange sign attached probably because Council has not seen them yet.   I think another 20 trees could comfortably be added to the vandalised list.

Local resident Justine Langford was interviewed for the article & to my mind she hit the nail on the head when she said, “….there is so much development in the area & we are losing a lot of trees. The population is about to explode with all the new flats, so any new greenery is most welcome and also animals are losing habitats when trees are knocked down.”

She also suggested that Marrickville Council engage in better community consultation before any tree is planted by negotiating with residents regarding what trees they like & answer any of their questions. She felt this approach might prevent newly planted street trees from being destroyed. I agree with Ms Langford. The current way is not working. The problem is more community consultation means more cost to Council, which likely means less budget for tree planting, & once again, the greater community loses out to the tree vandals.

Council says they have done extensive community consultation with the formation of the Street Tree Master Plan passed last year. It’s true. To their credit they did, but many people (including myself) are not happy with the species chosen for their street & that may push some residents to take matters into their own hands.

I would guess that more than 90% of the community did not read the Street Tree Master Plan, so when one tree species is planted & they prefer an another, then the trouble starts. The Master Plan was a huge document & one needed to have knowledge of tree species to fully understand the document. I spent a great deal of time googling Latin names to find out about the species planned.

It is almost a given that if I start photographing a street tree someone will race out of their house & ask if I am from Council. When I say no, they start telling me how much they hate the tree I am photographing. I have spoken to a significant number of residents about their street trees & can say with absolute confidence that deciduous trees are hated the most, despite the sunshine the lack of leaves in winter. Why? – because leaf litter makes them angry. They hate leaves all over their garden, over the footpath & in the gutter. They also hate fallen leaves on their car.

Community consultation conducted by Marrickville Council in 2013 revealed that a whopping 20% did not want street trees in the Marrickville Local Government Area.   Not just their street, but the whole of the municipality! This attitude is what Marrickville Council has to overcome & it needs more than articles in the newsletter ‘Marrickville Matters,’ even though these are good.

I suspect that hotter streets & homes caused by climate change will help change attitudes, but by then, Council will have to do what other local councils across the world do & that is ask residents to regularly water new trees well beyond the 2-years needed for newly planted trees. I doubt that will go down well.

I want to say to the vandals – stop being so selfish!   You bought the land that your home sits on, but the verge is not yours. It belongs to the ratepayers of Marrickville and Marrickville Council works on their behalf to make this municipaility a better place to live & they are doing a pretty good job of it.  Do something to make it beautiful, not something that destroys beauty.

I was extremely interested to watch the uproar around 3-4 years ago when Council canvassed the idea to save $2 million per year by ceasing to mow the verges, except for those residents who were unable to for some reason. A sufficiently large percentage of residents did not want to mow the 5-10 metre strip (on average) in front of their house, so the idea was dropped.

Council is expected to mow, remove litter/weeds/leaves & to make the streetscape beautiful. Yet some think that they can decide that a tree should not be planted outside their property or in the next street at the expense of everyone else. I don’t understand this.

Each time a person vandalises a tree, they are stealing from the community & preventing life improvements for future generations. It takes a long time before a tree grows sufficiently to be making a positive impact on air quality, carbon sequestration, shady beautiful streets etc. Marrickville Council’s tree planting budget only goes so far & it might not cover replacing the vandalised tree the following year. A year is a long time when you consider how long it takes trees to grow.

Another kind of tree vandalism is when the street tree is pruned so that it never grows & this is very common across our municipality. A 1.2 metre or less street tree will never produce benefits to people or to wildlife.

What to do? I don’t know, other than embark of a huge & costly campaign to educate the community about climate change & the need for trees, plus the benefits trees bring.

I’d start using street art in high traffic places to provide a message about the environment. This has been done successfully by the City of Melbourne with their storm water program. It is so successful, tourist trails have been organised for people to see the artwork. See –

Sydney Water recently engaged artists to paint the walls of their buildings along the Cooks River. All the images are blue representing the water & they all contain large images of waterbirds. Immediately the viewer is led to appreciate the river & the life that lives along it.

Canterbury Council attaches large steel signs to the tree that says, “this tree was vandalized” & they leave the signs there for 5-years or more. This is a more confrontational approach, but I agree that ugliness is a great deterrent for any future vandalism. Overseas local councils put a shipping container or some kind of structure in place of the tree & leave these for 5-10 years. Our community should not need these approaches.

Newly planted Eucalypt in Myrtle Street Marrickville vandalised.  This is a perfect site for this tree. Another incomprehensible act of vandalism.

Newly planted Eucalypt in Myrtle Street Marrickville vandalised. This is a perfect site for this tree. Another incomprehensible act of vandalism.