VANDALISM and destruction of council trees will be investigated in Lake Macquarie, amid a new policy that aims to protect trees from unnecessary removal and pruning.
The council receives about 1100 requests a year for removal or pruning of its trees.
"Reported instances of unauthorised tree removal, damage or pruning of trees on council land will be investigated," the new policy, which applies to public and road reserves, said. The council would take "reasonable steps" to manage trees to reduce risks of people being injured and property damaged.
The council said it "only removes or prunes high-risk trees".
It aimed to remove "very hazardous trees" within a month and "medium hazard trees" within eight. The council would not do any work on trees rated as being "low hazard", but residents could apply for council consent to prune or remove them.
But they would have to pay for the work.
The council planned to conduct community education and awareness to "protect trees and encourage reporting of vandalism" as a preventative measure. Replanting would be done to mitigate vandalism and deter further incidents.
Developments should be more than five metres and driveways more than one metre from trees on council land.
Development applications for structures that could not meet those conditions would be "referred to tree-management staff".
"Council may require the applicant to provide a tree report from a recognised and suitably qualified [tree specialist]," the policy said. "Council will consider and may favour alternatives to removing the tree, which may result in increased costs for the applicant."
The council may require a bond at times to ensure trees on council-managed land were protected.