Crime

Tree vandals cost councils big bucks

Vandals have damaged or completely removed at least 200 new street trees in Stirling since the start of 2015, costing the council about $40,000.

In the Balcatta area alone, about 50 new street trees were vandalised, prompting the council to complain to police.

Stirling parks and reserves manager Ian Hunter said the city was pursuing several leads that may lead to the successful prosecution of vandals. Nobody had been prosecuted yet.

“It is difficult to prosecute when the city has no hard evidence to do so,” Mr Hunter said.

“We urge anyone who has witnessed a tree being vandalised to contact the city and report what they have witnessed to allow the city to investigate and hopefully prosecute offenders.”

Mr Hunter said the council had started receiving more information about tree vandals after it launched a community engagement initiative to tell residents the benefits of the project.

The City of Stirling values trees individually and some trees are expensive.

“It costs around $170 to buy and plant a good-sized street tree on city verges, but when weekly summer watering is factored over two subsequent years, it costs $540,” Mr Hunter Said.

“Once established, mature street trees can range in value from around $6,000 to $40,000-plus for very special magnificent trees.

“The loss is not just the monetary costs but also the delayed establishment of the trees in bringing the benefits that street trees provide – such as improved amenity of the neighbourhood (and property prices), cooler urban environments, etc.”

Tree vandalism isn’t isolated to Stirling alone.

City of Vincent mayor John Carey took to Twitter yesterday morning to condemn the vandalism of several trees on Oxford St in Leederville.

“I just don’t understand why people feel inclined – that they must destroy them,” Mr Carey said.

“I suppose they do it because they know that it does have a profound, soul-destroying effect on a community.

“Great cities around the world are defined by walkability, and we know that when you have trees that provide shade, which provides comforts to pedestrians, they are better off.

“So, green trees are critical to the health of our community, they’re critical to getting people walking.”

Mr Carey said street tree vandalism was a big problem.

“We lost 60-70 trees last year,” he said.

“It’s a significant issue for us because it’s just senseless vandalism, and because it takes so long to grow a tree, it’s an investment.”

Mr Carey said anyone witnessing street tree vandalism should “dob them in”.

“If you see something, pull them up right there and then, and prevent the loss,” he said.

The Town of Victoria Park said that about 12 trees were affected by vandalism annually, costing the council up to $3,000 each year.