TREE vandalism could become rife in Bayswater after the majority of its councillors binned a policy that puts ‘shaming signs’ in place of dead trees that were deliberately killed.
The council’s had a longstanding policy that when a public tree has been purposefully poisoned or cut down they erect a large sign, up to 3m by 3m for a period of two years, stating the tree has been vandalised.
It’s intended to shame the vandals, since it’s usually obvious who’s poisoned a tree to get a better view or keep falling leaves off their lawn.
The shame sign policy is used because it’s nearly impossible for the council to get enough proof that someone’s damaged a tree.
But the policy’s now been abolished by the vote of a majority of councillors as part of series of recent measures that’ve reduced Bayswater’s unilateral control over establishing and keeping public trees.
Cr Dan Bull urged colleagues to keep the policy, as without it “the city has no levers to stop tree vandalism.
“It is so rare to find the person who has done it, and when this proposal was put forward it was actually ground-breaking in Western Australia in the metropolitan area. We were one of the first councils that was doing it, and it may not be perfect but it’s pretty much all that we’ve got.
“So if we’re fair dinkum about protecting and growing tree canopy then we need to have something to deter people from vandalising street trees.”
Councillors Elli Petersen-Pik and Sally Palmer agreed but were outvoted.
The signs policy hadn’t always worked smoothly: A staff report to councillors says there have been “instances where the signage reflected unfairly on residents that were not involved in the tree removal”, such as the 2017 Maylands case where a cluster of houses along Clarkson Road felt falsely accused by an ambiguously placed sign (‘We’re no tree killers’, Voice, March 25, 2017).
The council can still seek compensation from tree killers if they’re ever lucky enough to catch someone red-handed.
by DAVID BELL