Crown St Mall tree cages only answer: mayor

Wollongong Mayor Gordon Bradbery is making no apologies over the metal cages installed around gum trees in Wollongong's Crown Street Mall.

Yesterday Cr Bradbery said the council had no alternative to erecting the temporary fencing around the young trees, each worth thousands of dollars, to protect them from vandalism.

The fencing, installed last weekend after six of the 14 trees were vandalised, has attracted a flurry of negative online comments.

"Sorry I can't do much about it," Cr Bradbery said. "If people would look after property, and respect community property, then we wouldn't have to have the fencing.

"I have no alternative. I have to do something to protect those trees during this festive season when people think it's an opportunity to swing on them.

"I'm between a rock and a hard place on this one."

The temporary fencing is set to stay in place until permanent tree guards can be erected in February.

In just six weeks, the trees have been attacked by vandals, leaving the gums with broken branches and tree trunks.

The bill to replace the six trees and install guards for their protection was $50,000.

Several posts on the Mercury's webpage directly attacked council for its response to the tree vandalism.

"OMG how ugly does it look now?" one reader wrote. "They have just ruined the mall yet again. What is wrong with these councillors? I am sure the permanent fencing will be just as ugly. Commonsense would say remove the trees, they look ugly anyway and out of place."

Another reader posted on the webpage that the trees would be beneficial if given a chance.

"If it wasn't for alcohol and drug affected yobs the mall would actually look quite nice," the reader posted. "The trees will supply shade if they survive."

The debate was just as strong on the Mercury's Facebook page. However there was some support for council's vision.

"Who cares what they look like now, when their [sic] grown it will look lovely," one person wrote on Facebook.

Cr Bradbery said the mall had to be reopened before the reconstruction works were complete for Christmas trading.

"We promised the retailers we would be out of there from November through to February and as soon as February comes around the hoardings will go back up and the work will continue," he said.

"The mall reconstruction is expected to be finished around late October to early November 2014.

"It's on the way. It had to happen. But unfortunately it's pretty ugly at the present time and I don't make any apologies for that. It was either have it closed or reopen it with what we have."

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