MORE than 400 trees have been illegally poisoned or chopped down along the Hunter's coastline in the past 18 months in malicious attacks designed to improve residents' views.
The environmental vandalism has continued despite the efforts of coastal councils to prevent the destruction, including using shipping containers to block the views revealed by tree removal.
Axes, poisons and chemicals imported from interstate have been used to kill trees at Newcastle, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie.
Lake Macquarie has had the most trees destroyed, with about 15 trees poisoned and 300 trees illegally removed in the past 18 months.
The biggest single incident was at Wyee, where 70 trees were illegally removed from a private property.
Most offences had been committed on lakeside properties, Lake Macquarie council's waste, environment and rangers manager Keith Stevenson said.
"The main reason seems to be to gain views," he said.
"Whether it's 10 trees or 300 trees, it is still a problem.
"People are removing trees for their own benefit when they serve a purpose for environmental issues and habitat."
A tree that stood at Shoal Bay Reserve for eight decades fell victim to the most recent of 48 attacks in Port Stephens.
Holes drilled into the trunk of the Angophora were filled with poison, killing the tree that had helped stabilise neighbouring sand dunes.
In other cases a solid herbicide called tebuthiuron was thrown into backyards and parks, killing up to 10 trees at a time.
"[The herbicide is] highly toxic to vegetation and is banned in NSW," Port Stephens Council environmental services manager Bruce Peterson said.
At Boat Harbour, about 200 metres of foreshore have suffered almost constant removal of native vegetation in the past four years.
"Trees have been chopped down, poisoned and burnt," Mr Peterson said.
At one stage, in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction, the council placed two large shipping containers on the suburb's coastal reserve to block newly gained views.
In Newcastle, 18 trees have been poisoned and 106 trees vandalised in the past two years.
The malicious acts, including the levelling of five pine trees at Dixon Park in January, have cost the council more than $116,000 - a cost worn by ratepayers.
A council spokeswoman said there had been no prosecutions to date due to the difficulty in locating offenders.
Illegal tree removal or poisoning can attract on-the-spot fines up to $3000, while substantial matters taken to court can result in penalties up to $1.1 million.