Sapphire massacre all for a view?
By Jeni Faulkner
When one Sapphire resident took his family for an early morning stroll to see the sunrise this week he was confronted with a nasty surprise ? poisoned, dead trees.
Preferring not to be named, the resident said more than 20 native trees were dying along The Mountain Way road in Sapphire, and he was angry someone would deliberately destroy beautiful old trees.
Two stand about 11 metres high and are near powerlines, while another is located next to the road.
"There are four residents located near the powerlines and many people drive along the road so if there was a heavy wind these trees could topple and cause real problems," the resident said.
About 10 of the trees are on council property with many others scattered through private land.
The poisoned trees include older established pines and gums, along with ironbarks, and some smaller seedlings, which have been drenched in Roundup.
"I'm really rankled that someone would come into private space and damage something that can't be replaced," he said.
"I believe two of the bigger tress were drilled and poisoned about six months ago, but the rest have been poisoned within the past two months, so it appears they have got away with it."
One of the ironbarks has about eight drill holes, big enough to fit a person's thumb inside.
"Once trees are poisoned they are gone forever and this is too many trees and it's too obvious that someone really wanted them gone."
Believing the damage was caused for the purpose of achieving better ocean views, the resident said there was always a good price to pay for a view, but not at the expense of others.
"This is vandalism and I hope it doesn't happen again even though, unfortunately, the real damage has already been done," he said.
Senior ranger with Coffs Harbour City Council, Gordon Polkinghorne, said investigations were currently under way regarding the poisoning of trees along The Mountain Way.
"The problem with these offences is that you can't really put a blanket figure on the cost," Mr Polkinghorne said.
Penalties for destroying native trees vary depending on the breaches made, but Mr Polkinghorne said there could be an on-the-spot fine of $600 for the removal of trees and, if the damaged trees were home to wildlife the maximum penalty in the Land and Environment Court could be $1.1 million.
Mr Polkinghorne said in the Coffs Coast area, poisoned trees were usually small scale and were for the purpose of a view, resale value and sometimes simply because people weren't aware they needed council approval.
"With all tree-poisoning offences you need to be able to prove who has done it and just because one property has an advantage because the trees are gone doesn't mean they can be charged, they need to be caught in the act," he said.
"With these offences you have to appeal to people's morals and ask them to respect trees and their obligation to the environment."