Karaka chainsaw massacre: Police release image of believed tree slasher

Police are appealing for any sightings of a chainsaw-wielding man believed to have hacked down eight pohutukawa trees just weeks before flowering.

Auckland Council was called to clean up the carnage on Monday, following the random felling around 6.50pm on Sunday.

The mature miniature pohutukawa trees, growing on council berms along Harbourside Drive in Karaka, were cut down just weeks before their prime – their seasonal crimson bloom many associate with the Kiwi holiday season.

The eight native trees were instead left strewn across the footpath and road following the wrecking spree.

An appalled Papakura Local Board chairman Brent Catchpole earlier told the Herald the destruction of the iconic trees had “completely destroyed our Christmas spirit”.

Police today released an image of the alleged culprit, described as a solidly built European male in his 30s or 40s, with dark hair and a goatee.

He was snapped wearing a black T-shirt, shorts and gumboots with a light coloured chainsaw slung over his shoulder.

Inspector Tony Wakelin of the Counties Manukau South Police urged anyone who might’ve seen the man on Sunday to get in touch.

“Police are aware that there were a number of families walking on what was a lovely sunny day that were in the area at the same time as this male,” he said.

“We are appealing to anyone who may have seem him or the people he was with to come forward to assist our investigation.

“We are also asking residents to check their CCTV footage to see if this man can be seen.”

Residents believed the alleged offender had been in one of two cars with occupants seen drinking in the area prior to the incident, Wakelin said earlier.

The man had been seen chopping down trees on the main street with a chainsaw but had disappeared before the police arrived.

Wakelin acknowledged the footage of the man wasn’t very clear – but said he hoped someone who knew the man would recognise him and come forward.

The destroyed trees were in a section of Harbourside Drive between Silkwood Cres and the eastern end of Normanby Rd.

They were planted around 15 years ago when the suburb beside the Manukau estuary was developed.

Catchpole said it was “bizarre” that someone would hack down the beloved trees.

“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 on to the road and just left there.

“Somebody’s obviously unhappy there are trees on a berm.”

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 beautiful place to live.”

The community was already coming together to ensure the trees were replaced, Prewett said.

Any information on incident should contact the Papakura Police on 105 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting file number: 201026/6667.

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