There were concerns the new spotted gum trees in Crown Street Mall would drop their branches before too long, but it seems overly enthusiastic passers-by have beaten them to it.
Wollongong City Council yesterday said almost half the trees in the recently refurbished mall had been "severely damaged" in the six weeks since installation, with CCTV footage capturing incidents of tree vandalism in that time.
Some trees in the western end of the mall, formerly five-metre-tall leafy gums, have been reduced to mere trunks.
"This is reckless behaviour and is damaging something that belongs to our whole community," Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.
The council would soon install temporary fencing around the trees, with a view to erecting permanent guards by February.
Damage to the trees and the installation of the protective guards would cost the city about $50,000.
Wollongong police responded to an incident of tree vandalism last Sunday, after CCTV spotted a man climbing one of the trees about 1.30am before the top half snapped off.
"Malicious damage is not only unsightly but also costly to the community and whether it is damage to a tree, bench or building, we will investigate each and every incident," Wollongong crime manager Detective Inspector Tim Beattie said.
The spotted gums have been a controversial topic in the new mall, with shop owners and Mercury readers voicing concerns over the effect the trees would have on the shopping strip.
The danger posed by possible falling tree limbs was referenced by many readers, one calling the trees "widow-makers".
Reservations were also raised about mess caused by falling leaves or birds attracted to the area.
The Lord Mayor and Insp Beattie urged people to report incidences of vandalism in the city to the police or Crime Stoppers.
Insp Beattie said police need community help.
Cr Bradbery said the vandalism would not be tolerated.
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