Century-old trees have been cut down and their branches hacked near a popular beachside walking track, with the destruction impacting wildlife and leaving locals devastated by the inexplicable loss.
Lake Macquarie City Council were first notified of the vandalism after a resident found the four native coastal banksias on Tuesday morning, with the felled trees located in Swansea Heads, NSW. The local man said "I can't believe I feel this sad" before condemning whoever was behind the destruction.
"Bloody disgusting that somebody would do this," he said in a video taken at the scene which he later posted online decrying the act. Photos also showed a handwritten tapped onto the remains of the trees which read, 'Stop cutting down the trees! You don't own the view'.
Council confirm tree cutting was unauthorised
It is currently unknown who is behind the tree felling, with the local council confirming to Yahoo News there was no authorised work scheduled in the area.
"These trees were not removed by Council, nor did we approve their removal," Manager Environmental Systems Karen Partington said.
The local accused the unknown offender of felling the trees in a bid to maximise the view of the water for properties nearby at the northern end of Caves Beach, however motives remain unclear.
"There has been some speculation and anecdotal evidence about who removed them and why, but no factual evidence has been identified at this stage," Partington said.
Despite the maximum fine for illegal tree removal in NSW being $220,000 it continues to be a problem in waterfront suburbs in the state. Over 300 native trees and shrubs "mysteriously" vanished last year in Sydney's Longueville and a tree poisoning incident occurred at the harbourside suburb of Darling Point.
Advocates call for maximum penalties to be enforced
It is believed those responsible for illegal tree removal are confident they will be able to dodge repercussions since it often goes unpunished.
"We need the judicial system to set an example and impose the maximum fine,” Longueville Mayor Scott Dennison told Yahoo News previously when speaking on the incident in his local area last year. Since most properties in waterfront suburbs are worth millions of dollars, he believes some may be willing to take that chance and cop the fine for a better view.
“People just take a punt and say, 'I’ll pay $200,000, what does that matter if I improve my view size',” he said.
Lake Macquarie City Council confirmed it has erected signs and are "letterbox dropping" in the area on Wednesday in the hope more information about the tree felling will come to light.
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