THE Maylands residents accused of damaging a verge tree outside their property say they believed Bayswater council had approved its brutal haircut.
Council staff have been investigating the case and classed it “tree vandalism” in a report to councillors, saying it is “unknown at this stage whether the tree will recover, or ever regain the form it had before being lopped”.
But the owners of 1 Sussex Street, whose names are redacted in the report, say there was a miscommunication and they believed they had permission to cut back the melaleuca, which they say damaged their driveway and post box with falling debris.
Council records show a call from the residents last July lasting 1 minutes and 25 seconds, and apparently they reached the autodialer and pressed the button taking them to the council waste service contractor Cleanaway.
But the council’s tree services team have no record of speaking with residents, save for a 2020 job when they’d given the underside a mild prune.
The staffer report says the residents’ claim they were authorised “cannot be corroborated by the city, despite an extensive review into the matter”.
The report also rejects the residents’ characterisation of the works as a mere pruning: “The tree in question was not pruned or trimmed; the top was completely lopped off which constitutes vandalism as it has severely damaged the natural form and function of the tree”.
Staff have recommended councillors vote to install a three-metre sign declaring that a tree’s been vandalised as per the council’s Urban Tree Policy, or as an alternative could require two new trees to replace the wounded one. Councillors will decide whether to take up one of those options or to just do nothing at the January 25 meeting.
December’s meeting may have previewed a gentler approach to tree-removers given a slim majority of councillors voted to remove some of the clauses preventing tree pruning or removal (“Tree protection pruned,” Voice, January 15, 2022).
by DAVID BELL