A war of words has broken out between environmental activists and a Shoalhaven Councillor after trees were vandalised at Culburra Beach.
Without directly blaming Councillor Jo Gash for the death of trees on the dune between her Culburra home and the beach, environmental activists are calling it “a rather fortunate coincidence”.
Two Sydney-based environmentalists who publicly aired complaints about desecration of banksias on the same dune in November 2014 and again in November 2015, were swift to claim Culburra beachfront residents Jo Gash and Ann Sudmalis stood to benefit from a better view after the recent tree poisoning incident.
“Yes, there’s no proof of anyone doing it but there is a history of tree vandalism in this area, and it’s important to keep reporting it,” the environmentalist, who wished not to be named, said.
Councillor Gash said the activists recently sent an email to Shoalhaven City Council and councillors, which implicated her in the incident.
Cr Gash emphatically denies poisoning the trees, however, and has accused one of the environmentalists of “sour grapes”, saying they were interested in buying the waterfront property at the time it was sold to her. The environmentalist denies having any interest in the property.
“I can tell you this, we’ve lived here for five years, and they’ve been after us since then,” Cr Gash said.
“I’m jack of it.
“I was wrongly accused of cutting down banksias three years ago.
“My gardener and I have planted nearly 300 plants in the reserve, at my expense.
“I’m part of a registered Bushcare group, we poison the weeds.”
She said the loss of a few banksias would not dramatically improve ocean views from her property anyway.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Phillip Quast lamented the incident.
“It’s such a shame,” he said.
“The trees were once huge. They’ve struggled valiantly for four years and after numerous chainsawing and pruning, now they are dead.”
Mr Quast, who has been in contact with the Environmental Protection Authority, said there was evidence of drilling beside the dead banksias, and is testing the soil for the type of poison used.
On Wednesday, Shoalhaven council rangers inspected the banksias in Culburra and confirmed the trees appear to have been vandalised.
The investigation is ongoing and council’s rangers would welcome any advice from the public concerning the incident.
Those with any information can contact rangers on 4429 3433.