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Culburra Beach latest victim of Banksia attacks.

September 16, 2020

By Bradley Stanton

Banksia Trees – vital for dune management, erosion control, ecosystems, and habitat to the symbol of Nowra the black cockatoo – are frequently subject to vandalism and controversy within the Shoalhaven. 

Vincentia's Collingwood Beach has seen a spree of vandalism events. The community was shocked when several Banksia trees died from poisoning in November 2017. A small number of residents then rallied for the removal of Banksias along Collingwood Beach stating they were unnecessary, introduced to the region by Council and obstructed views.

A year later, the culprits destroyed another 30 mature foreshore Banksias, and, in a separate location, two eighty-year-old Banksias were poisoned, with holes drilled and weed killer injected into the trunks. 

Culburra Beach sees the latest vandalism attack against the Banksia, with a massive number of mature trees (some said to be fifty years old) butchered and left to die, some visible, others hidden deliberately from view. The carnage was discovered on the 7th of September, by Council employees, during weed clearing and maintenance.

Council acted quickly erecting signs at the site on Allerton Avenue in an attempt to seek community information on the alleged vandalism. Brochures have also been distributed within the area. If Council investigations, currently in progress, identify a perpetrator, they can be fined up to $3000 for every tree damaged. Council may even consider taking matters to court.

I went to Culburra Beach to see for myself the damage, with fellow environmental advocates, Kim Stephenson and Jill Trotter. Photos do no justice in showing the devastation you walk into. It is overwhelming, a mixture of churning in the stomach, pain in the heart and tear in the eye. The attack was vicious and deliberate; on a scale not seen before. You see the broken limbs weep, and we ask each other, are they crying and feeling the same pain we feel?

We found a recently used campfire with non-Banksia wood at the scene, stolen Bushcare seedling stakes being used for kindling, accompanied by cooking utensils and rubbish. Some trees were marked with orange rope. We left with more questions than answers, with the continual signs of blatant disrespect to both environment and wildlife clearly evident. 

Numerous residents have expressed anger over this latest vandalism attack, with the Jerrinja people expressing their disappointment and frustration. Trees have Indigenous significance and are a connection to spirit and country. Culburra residents believe the "disgusting" act was not performed by a local, because of the love they share of their town. 

With Banksias playing such an important role, one can hope Council will be ruthless with anyone performing vandalism of this degree and punish them accordingly. It won't fix the damage already caused but might detract from future events of environmental vandalism.  

If you have any information that could assist Council in their investigations and lead to a conviction, even if you remain anonymous, phone 44293111 – even the smallest of details could matter. MAP

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    2 comments on “Culburra Beach latest victim of Banksia attacks.”

    1. The ongoing battle, along the foreshores of Jervis Bay. The urban creep and entitled people who believe they have the right to poison and destroy habitat. An ongoing battle along Collingwood Beach has actually seen the Council bend to the tree killers - stopping the agreed trial sites and allowing the 'dead wood' be cleared - stating it was a fire hazard. The last two low weather patterns saw huge amounts of sand gouged out of the foreshore, yet the 'so-called protectors of Collingwood Beach' continue to fight for their views and 'unknown' people pull out any banksia seedlings under cover of darkness. Totally agree with the above comments - people with chain saws must be heard, and the eagle eye of the local residents - who don't seem to miss much - never see a thing when it is the destruction of habitat.

    2. It is hard to believe that no one would have heard the roar of the chainsaw in this sensitive coastal zone of NSW, but I guess people in the Shoalhaven Local Government Area are just so used to the sounds of the creeping destruction of our natural and cultural heritage.

      The roar of chainsaws and heavy machinery within the NSW Coastal zone, in the act of demolishing trees in the landscape that once extended out from the coastal zone of the city, across the vast regional landscape to form the Grand South East Forest.

      A significant and majestic forest that not so long ago formed a vast and extensive urban tree canopy. A Grand Forest Canopy from the mountains to the sea that extended through all the urban and suburban precincts of the Shoalhaven and through the Rural zones right across the entire Shoalhaven LGA.

      The Shoalhaven Local Environment Plan 2014 and the associated Shoalhaven City wide DCP - Trees and Vegetation Management- DCP 128 is the legislation and policy that is in place today to govern tree and vegetation management in the non rural environments of the City. The Shoalhaven DCP 128 still includes the notoriously divisive 45 degree policy.

      This policy is a successful policy within the equitable Society of NSW and allows foe total risk management and the hazard assessment and elimination approach to protect life and property in the Shoalhaven. A scorched earth approach that compliments bushfire management policies but does not act in the Public interest to protect the environment of NSW.

      The Shoalhaven DCP 128 does not provide equity, sustainability, livability or a good quality of life for the community of the Shoalhaven that must now endure the urban environment in the elements of extremes subject to climate change. The Shoalhaven LGA DCP 128 remains without due consideration to the wisdom and science that allowed for the Commonwealth to sign the international conventions on biodiversity that include the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development.

      This draconian policy (known as the notoriously divisive 45 degree policy) encourages the removal of the entire specimen of tree below the 45 degree line extending out from any urban structure., The loss of significant specimens of trees throughout the Shoalhaven LGA is stark and has created numerous land use conflicts with the communities throughout the NSW Shoalhaven LGA.

      The Shoalhaven DCP 128 includes the Australian Standards in amenity tree pruning, this standard does not allow for lopping or the totem poles that have become common featured within the urban precincts throughout the Shoalhaven. Arboriculture is the culture and science that incorporates risk management and assessment of the health and structural integrity of trees in the urban environment.

      People who have become qualified with the knowledge, skills, experience and understanding of trees, have developed the study of trees as a science in the traditions of Horticulture. Both Horticulture and Arboriculture stem from ancient traditions and have origins within all cultures and societies across the planet.

      Perhaps it is time to rally for the trees of the Shoalhaven.

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