Radical plan could deter environmental vandals

The Sandon Point Aboriginal Burial Ground, showing the line of dying trees.


RADICAL measures could be put in place by Wollongong City Council in an effort to kerb increasing tree vandalism in the northern Illawarra.

Ward One Greens Councillor Jill Merrin is calling for Council to urgently initiate a public education campaign on the benefits of native vegetation after The Bulli Times revealed earlier this month an ongoing campaign to destroy beachside plantings.

The coordinated assault by a group of local residents has been underway on council funded Bushcare restoration work from Waniora Point, north to McCauley’s Beach for a number of years.

The vandals, who have been identified to The Bulli Times, are waging war on the Bushcare sites, claiming the trees and shrubs block views.

Although the systematic vandalism has occurred for a number of years, the extent of the latest attacks has shocked environmentalists, who have in the past refused to comment in fear of inflaming the problem.

Sandon Point Bushcare coordinator Marcel Van Wijk reluctantly decided to talk to The Bulli Times in the hope of prompting authorities to act on the problem. The veteran environmentalist said ultimately the continuing vandalism is a management issue that needs to be addressed by those in authority.

Cr Jill Merrin

Cr Merrin said some local government authorities, such as Woollahra, have placed large banners in dead trees stating that they had been vandalised.

“Other Councils have placed shipping containers where trees have been damaged, again drawing attention to the vandalism and creating a poor view for residents behind the area,” she said.

Cr Merrin said there appears to be an increasing amount of tree vandalism along the coast, including iconic sites such as Bald Hill at Stanwell Tops.

“I assume it’s about coastal views and property values,” she said.

“Council must let residents know about the role of vegetation in beach stabilisation, particularly in light of sea level rise. Without this, their properties are at increased risk.”

Cr Merrin said residents who destroy trees that are part of Council or State funded projects are effectively stealing from the public purse.

A Council spokesperson said people vandalising trees or vegetation could be subject to large fines.

About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


6 thoughts on “Radical plan could deter environmental vandals

  1. People come to the Illawarra in part because of its spectacular views. Planting out these views is in itself a crime. There would be no debate about tree vandalism had Vista Blocking Vegetation not been planted in the first place!

    Those involved in the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Community Grants Program need to be held to account. Page 8, Para B3.2 Dot point 2, of that Program clearly states “an assurance is given that only low growing appropriate local plant species will be planted where loss of views are deemed to be a potential issue”.

    Hundreds of Illawarra residents and others from around the country have signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of Vistas and Views from private and public amenities. The loss of iconic ocean views because of uncontrolled inconsiderate Green Groups planting tall trees in the name of the Environment are themselves environmental vandals. Visit and sign the petition

    Dunes can be stabilised with low shrubs and grasses, not eighty foot tall gum trees.

    Vistas from public and private amenities should be protected, and property owners should be entitled to the protection of their ‘views’. After all, they paid (dearly) for the view, they continue to pay higher rates because of the view, the Valuer-General values property higher because of its views, Council happily charges higher rates for these views, therefore those owners should HAVE the view that they are paying for. What right does Council, or any minority group have to come along and rob them of those vistas?

    Wollongong Development Control Plan 2009, reproduced in part below goes to great lengths to identify that indeed a value is placed upon a View (Para 11.8.3). It outlines many considerations that man-made developments must adhere to in order to ensure that compromises to views are considered when someone decides to build something.

    Why are not these same considerations given to (and controls placed upon) the planting of vegetation?
    DCP 2009

    11.8 View Sharing
    11.8.1 General
    1. New development and alterations and additions to existing development must be designed to
    maximise view sharing opportunities from neighbouring dwellings and to minimise potential view loss.
    2. “View sharing” concerns the equitable distribution of views between properties. The view sharing
    principles outlined in this part of the DCP consider the equitable distribution of views between
    properties. The view sharing principles seek to strike a reasonable balance between facilitating new
    development and alterations and additions to existing development, whilst preserving as far as
    practical, access to views from surrounding properties.
    11.8.2 Objectives
    (a) To encourage view sharing from adjoining or nearby properties, public places, and new development.
    (b) To protect and enhance significant view corridors from public places.
    (c) To encourage the siting and design of new buildings which open up significant views from public
    11.8.3 View Assessment Process
    1. The four (4) step view assessment process applied in this part of the DCP is based on the
    established planning principle outlined in the NSW Land & Environment Court judgment in Tenacity
    Consulting v Warringah, Roseth, SC [2004] (NSW LEC 140 7 April 2004), namely:
    (a) Assessment of views likely to be affected – Water views are generally more highly valued than
    land views. Iconic views (e.g. Wollongong Harbour / Lighthouse, northern Illawarra coastline,
    Sea Cliff Bridge, views across the sea towards Five Islands etc.) are more valued than views
    without icons. Whole views are valued more highly than partial views (egg a water view in which
    the interface between land and water is visible is more valuable than one in which it is


    Posted by Simon | July 18, 2012, 4:01 am
  2. Most of the residents of the Northern suburbs are aware of the vandalism and irresponsibility of people who continue to plant the wrong species of vegetation in the wrong places. At the meeting of Wollongong City Council last week (Monday 9th July) the Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury and the councillors had lengthy discussions on the planting of wrong species including acacia sophorae along what was once a beautiful foreshore. This coastal wattle, although an Australian native, is no more a native to our foreshores as lantana and bittou bush. These and other species have destroyed our beaches and dunal areas. Council is currently planning to remove all of these noxious weeds and anyone who “cannot see the wood for the trees” and continues to spread wattle weeds is the vandal. Would those irresponsible people who claim to be “green” plant unsuitable vegetation on their own property? True “Greenies” are responsible people who carry out proper research to ensure that they are not interfering with nature, and would consult experts and the local community before destroying the landscape. If you were to plant trees that would remove the beautiful coastal views from public land, then you are removing the public amenity of ocean/beach vistas. The trees & bushes planted in front of the viewing seat at Sandon Point is a classic example of WRONG. I have not seen any evidence of Eucalyptus trees or acacia sophorae growing in the Bulli – Sandon Point area prior to this ill-informed interference with nature. I believe that it would be wise to carry out some extensive research before any more weeds are planted that will eventually cost Council and ratepayers a lot of money to remove.
    Cr. Merrin makes reference to people risking fines by vandalising vegetation. I pose this thought: Should those involved in indiscriminate planting of known “weeds”, coastal wattle, be fined for damaging our delicate landscape. These weeds are costing Council (that’s you and me) a lot of money to eradicate.


    Posted by Michael | July 18, 2012, 11:36 am
  3. Maybe Ward One Greens Councillor Jill Merrin needs to urgently initiate a public education campaign on the benefits of views to our tourist industry and home owners happiness.


    Posted by david | July 19, 2012, 2:50 am
  4. Bushcare and Greens seem to have an attitude towards View Ownership. What they fail to realise is that, if a property owners view has been obscured by planted trees, then the public’s view from that same location (i.e. cycleway, picnic grass, bench seat) has also been obscured. They really need to come down from this elitist standpoint by trying to make out that ‘rich’ beachside property owners are cranky that their view has gone. If the view has been planted out, then it’s been planted out for all of us, not just the property owner.

    Why put a picnic table or bench seat in a location that takes advantage of a view, only to build a wall of trees in front of it. How would you like me to come to your front yard and build a wall in front of your window?


    Posted by Simon | July 22, 2012, 11:54 pm
  5. Hello, your articles here Radical plan could deter environmental vandals | The Bulli Times to write well, thanks for sharing!


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  1. Pingback: Increasing Wollongong’s Environmental Awareness | Enviromentally Friendly - October 26, 2012

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