Who stole our tree? Theft stumps city council

GONE: There is now nothing to show of the tree that once stood near the slide in the Lions Playground.
GONE: There is now nothing to show of the tree that once stood near the slide in the Lions Playground.

An audacious chainsaw-wielding thief has made off with the trunk of a shade tree from Tahunanui Beach - and Nelson City Council parks team leader Lindsay Barber is hacked off.

The council had been talking to police and would initiate a wilful damage prosecution if the perpetrator was caught, Mr Barber said.

Today, there's nothing to show of the 20 to 25-year-old norfolk island pine except a circle of topsoil close to the rocketship slide in the Lions Playground. Nelmac carted away the branches that were left in a pile, and removed the 32-centimetre diameter stump on Tuesday.

Mr Barber said the council was "really unhappy" about what had happened.

"That was becoming an important shade tree, and those trees take a long time to grow. There's not a lot else immediately around that area and it was progressing really nicely."

He said he was told on Sunday that the tree had been cut down and when he arrived to look the trunk was gone, only the branches were left. "It's quite a bizarre thing for someone to do. Norfolks grow really long and straight and I wonder if someone wanted it for a flagpole or a spar, and has just taken it. Maybe they just wanted it for firewood. You could clearly see someone had used a chainsaw to cut it down."

It was "quite sad and more than a little frustrating" that someone had decided to help themselves to the tree, Mr Barber said.

However the offender might not get away with it.

A vehicle's description and registration have been supplied to police.

Mr Barber hoped they would be able to catch the culprit, although "the fact of the matter is you can't glue the tree back on the stump - it's gone".

Such crimes in city parks are rare but not unknown. A couple of years ago a fig tree was chopped down in Anzac Park, along with other fig trees in other areas. "I've got no idea why," he said.

"There were a  couple of fig trees chopped out in other areas in that same time, so somebody with maybe a mental health issue had it in for fig trees.''

Police acting area commander Inspector Ross Lienert said a witness had reported that the tree trunk was carted away in a red ute on Saturday night. "We're treating it as a theft complaint. My reaction was that it was a bit unusual."

The Nelson Mail