Two more incidents of serious tree vandalism have been exposed in Wollongong in the wake of the destruction of much-loved tea trees at Belmore Basin.
As police and Wollongong City Council investigate last week's crime, the council revealed three young Crepe myrtles had been destroyed in MacCabe park in the CBD, having been planted less than a week earlier.
And at Holborn Park in Berkeley, which has seen repeated vandal attacks, 24 large established Casuarina trees, part of an Ecologically Endangered Community, were cut down.
But an experienced Wollongong arborist has voiced his fears tree vandals get caught so rarely that they seem to operate with little fear.
Clive Woodnutt, head arborist at Bohmer's Tree Care, said the Belmore Basin coast tea trees are hardy enough, but tree vandals were prosecuted too rarely.
"They may well come back, they could survive, but that's neither here nor there," he said. "My bugbear would be the fact that no-one's going to ever get prosecuted for that.
"[Let's] focus on the lack of attention that's given to this kind of thing. It's not restricted to that particular area - you've only got to drive along the coast drive towards the Sea Cliff Bridge and see the vandalism there. It's just continuous.
"It's criminal damage - if there was a parking meter [chopped down] the authorities would be out there hunting that man down until they found him."
While Wollongong City Council has successfully prosecuted eight cases of illegal tree cutting since 2016, these have all been for people cutting trees on their own property - none had been for vandalism of trees in public areas.
"Vegetation vandalism on public land is notoriously difficult to prosecute as, often, there are no witnesses and/or irrefutable evidence," a spokeswoman said. "Over the past 12 months we have issued two penalty notices and four official cautions for tree vandalism on public land."
The Mercury asked the council for an update on the Belmore Basin investigation, including whether any nearby residents had been spoken to, whether any witnesses had come forward, and whether view improvement was the likely motive.
A spokeswoman said it was "not appropriate to comment on an ongoing enquiry of this nature" but any further information would be welcomed.
"The vandals' action can selfishly rob our community of a climbing frame, shade on a hot summer's day or a vital home or food source for local wildlife," the spokeswoman said. "We ask people who see something to report it - we need to work together."
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