Locals are stumped after eight pohutukawa trees lining a street in an upmarket Auckland suburb were inexplicably felled in a chainsaw attack over the weekend.
Police are appealing for residents of Harbourside Drive in Karaka to check their security footage after a man was seen chopping down trees with a chainsaw on Sunday evening.
The mature miniature pohutukawa trees growing on council berms and just weeks away from erupting into their seasonal crimson bloom were left strewn across the footpath and road following the wrecking spree.
Auckland Council staff were called in to clean up the mess on Monday, with the once-lush trees reduced to sawdust and levelled stumps.
Papakura Board chairman Brent Catchpole is appalled, saying ruining so many iconic native Christmas trees that had enhanced the streetscape for the past 15 years was unbelievable.
"I'm horrified. That's just destroyed our Christmas spirit," he said.
Police today said they were called to the area on Sunday evening to investigate a report of suspicious behaviour. A man had been seen chopping down trees on the main street with a chainsaw but had disappeared before the police arrived.
Counties Manukau Police Inspector Tony Wakelin said residents believed the alleged offender had been in one of two cars with occupants seen drinking in the area prior to the incident.
He today urged residents to review street-facing home security images to see if the man with the chainsaw or cars linked to him had been captured on camera.
The destroyed trees were in a section of Harbourside Drive between Silkwood Cres and the eastern end of Normanby Rd.
Catchpole said there had been reports on social media neighbours heard a chainsaw operating but assumed the council had sanctioned the trees' removal.
"It wasn't sanctioned at all," he said.
The trees had been planted around 15 years ago when the suburb beside the Manukau estuary was developed.
And like many of its bewildered residents Catchpole was left puzzled why someone would do such a callous act.
"There's probably one tree every two houses. All you'll see is stumps now. The council contractors worked all yesterday chopping them up before taking them away because they were just lying across the footpath and even out onto the road and just left there.
"Somebody's obviously unhappy there are trees on a berm. It's bizarre isn't it?
The police added the vandalism had really impacted the local community.
"These were mature miniature pohutukawa trees that have been growing for many years. Their destruction have left residents devastated," said Wakelin.
Catchpole hoped the security footage would yield answers and identify those responsible or the cars associated with the chainsaw cutter.
Any information could be given to the Papakura Police by calling 105 or anonymously on Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.
Reece Prewett, president of the Karaka Harbourside Community Group, said that residents
are "shocked and appalled at the senseless vandalism in our community".
"These pohutukawa are iconic," he said.
"During summer their beautiful red blooms wind their way through the heart of our community. Our tree-lined streets are much loved by residents — they are part of what makes our community such a a beautiful place to live.
The community is already coming together to make sure the trees are replaced, and to share any information and CCTV footage they have with police to help make sure the culprits face justice for their bizarre and desperate vandalism," he said.
Kerri Fergusson, manager of compliance response and investigation at Auckland Council, said it was "devastating to see this kind of destruction".
"We have compliance officers in the area today conducting enquires. Council's investigation is ongoing. Council takes complaints of these types seriously and will attend at the time the incident is occurring if made aware at the time," Fergusson said.