Willoughby Council is advocating for stricter statewide penalties for tree vandalism offences, as it offers a $10,000 reward to find the culprits responsible for a recent large-scale attack on a local reserve.
The Council has forwarded a motion to the upcoming Local Government NSW conference, urging the NSW Government to conduct a comprehensive review of the legislative framework for tree protection and says it will be seeking support from other Councils.
The motion will request an urgent review of the existing legal regime to explore increased penalties and deterrents for the destruction of trees in NSW. These may include elevated fines and the possibility of custodial sentences to dissuade individuals from engaging in destructive tree-related activities and promote environmental conservation.
The proposed review aims to identify opportunities to better coordinate tree protection efforts throughout NSW. Additionally, it will focus on improving education and awareness campaigns to highlight the vital importance of tree protection and encourage stronger community support for these initiatives.
Willoughby Mayor, Tanya Taylor stressed the urgency of addressing tree protection concerns, particularly for councils with foreshore areas where the desire for unobstructed views may incentivise illegal tree removal.
“Our most recent large-scale tree vandalism site isn’t an isolated case. We can’t be sure what the key drivers are but more needs to be done to deter this behaviour,” Mayor Taylor said.
In July this year, the Council says an “extreme act of bushland vandalism” was discovered within H.D. Robb Reserve, off Willowie Road in Castle Cove (pictured, above).
An area of publicly-owned bushland reserve – equivalent to the size of 14 tennis courts – was deliberately destroyed through poisoning using a variety of different chemicals, while other trees were hacked and cut down using chainsaws.
Council says the majority of the vandalism took place between June and July.
“Tree vandalism has been occurring sporadically in this area over the last 20 years but with more vigour over the last two years,” it said.
The attacks have killed 265 trees, including a century-old 21-metre Angophora tree (pictured, below) which was poisoned.
The Council says it will take decades for the natural assets to grow back to its original state.
“The trees will take more than a life time to reach the same scale of the large, mature trees lost in this event. In addition to this, the chemicals used to kill the trees are now present in the soil and can run-off into Middle Harbour,” it said in a statement.
The H.D. Robb Reserve area an important connecting corridor to Garigal National Park which has allowed species like swamp wallabies and lyrebirds to be present in the urban bushland. Some of the fauna species affected and known to be in this reserve include sea eagles, kingfishers, spotted pardolotes, thornbills, lyrebirds, bandicoots, wallabies, finches and the eastern whip bird, Council said.
A $10,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can provide information leading to a successful prosecution.
If you saw or heard anything suspicious regarding this vandalised site please call 02 9777 1000. Your information will be treated confidentially.