Tree vandalism code of silence
A MAFIA-like code of silence shrouded Evans Head yesterday.
Residents of the sleepy hamlet have been asked by the local council to dob in vandals who have been killing trees along the scenic Ocean Drive, and who risk a $120,000 fine.
But The Northern Star ran into a wall of denial when it asked homeowners if they could shed any light on the situation.
‘Don’t know’ was the repeated answer – even to the question about what kind of trees stood between one home and the river, and which were now dead ordying.
‘Nothing to do with me’ was another answer, though no accusation had been made.
‘No comment’ was another eloquent response.
The most verbal resident did admit: “It’s a bit of a hot potato around here.”
But someone is clearly harming the trees, and the obvious motive is because they are obscuring the water views of some homes. And not only along Ocean Drive but also two streets behind it – Sunderland Drive and Pacific Crescent.
Endemic species have been lopped, tuckeroo saplings pulled out of the ground, and some large trees such as swamp mahogany, ring-barked and possibly sprayed with poison.
Michael McKenzie, the council’s administration engineer, said the repeated vandalism was completely disheartening for bush regeneration contractors ’who work tirelessly to regenerate these environmentally sensitive areas’.
It also risked causing slips on the riverbank, which fell away steeply from the road, Mr McKenzie said.
“It’s important to retain this vegetation,” he said.
The council has sent out letters to residents offering a reward of $1000 for information leading to a successful prosecution.
“We have two avenues open to us,” Mr McKenzie said. “First there is a police prosecution for criminal damage, or we can pursue a civil action.”
And offenders face a more serious charge.
“The use of pesticides in a manner that damages property of another person is in breach of the Pesticide Act and can carry a maximumpenalty of $120,000,” Mr McKenzie added.
If the vandalism continued the only option for the council would be to redirect its resources – which would leave the river bank to the mercy of the elements, he said.
The attacks are not the first on the Northern Rivers.
Byron Shire Council put up a sign at Clarks Beach in 2007 saying: “These trees have been wilfully destroyed by selfish vandals. This sign will be removed when vegetation reaches the same level ofmaturity of that which was damaged.”