Push for chainsaw vandal to pay $180K bill

AN accused tree vandal will be hit with a $180,000 bill to replace three mature elms if police have their way.

The man, 25, has been charged with criminal damage after an investigation into how three trees in Deas Street, Benalla, came to have deep holes in them.

Acting Detective Sgt Shannon Murphy said a chainsaw had been used to cut the square holes which extended up to 50 centimetres into two trees and through another trunk.

Several people have provided information that the damaged occurred between April 9 and 16.

Sgt Murphy said the trees were not expected to survive the vandalism, based on information from the Benalla Council’s tree expert.

“The council arborist has said the damage will likely kill them and the cost of replacing them would be so unreasonable it’s unlikely they will be replaced,” Sgt Murphy said. “They’re at least 70 years old.”

But Sgt Murphy said police would ask the court to award the council with the costs associated with replacing the trees.

He said police had been told the replacement cost would be $60,000 a tree.

The awarding of costs would be dependant on a successful prosecution of the charged man who is due to face Benalla Court on May 20.

Sgt Murphy said the Benalla man had told police when asked why he vandalised the elms that “he thought the trees were dying”.

Former Delatite Shire councillor and retired policeman Eric Brewer, who has lived in Deas Street since 1987, said he could understand why someone would be frustrated with the elms — they had long roots that often cracked paving and brick work.

“But there are proper ways of doing things and I can’t see why anyone would do anything like this,” Mr Brewer said.

“It’s vandalism, straight-out vandalism.”

Sgt Murphy said the trees, part of a row of elms, were a drawcard for most residents.

“A lot of neighbours have said these attractive old trees are part of their reason for living in that street,” he said.

“The neighbours were both disappointed and quite angry that someone had done that to the trees.”

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