THE "ridiculous" destruction of a fully grown Norfolk Pine at Moore Park Beach has sent the community in uproar and the council's vandalism bill skyrocketing.
The 4m-high pine was stripped of all its branches, leaving only the crown, some time over the weekend.
The council's regulatory spokesman Wayne Honor said the pine was planted as a sapling to enhance the "majestic" streetscape and foreshore.
"I think that area is a fairly hard, sandy area to get trees established in," he said.
"To get a tree to 4m high, with a good shape to it like that pine was, that's a major achievement."
But this achievement was of little significance to the vandals.
"For somebody to take the dim view of vandalising a piece of beautiful, natural environment is really throwing mud in the face of what our community is about," Cr Honor said.
Cr Honor said it was doubtful the tree could be saved.
"The stupidity of the act, the destruction and the cost to the community is on the side of ridiculous," he said.
He said Parks and Gardens just did not have the budget to replace a tree of that maturity, costing the council thousands of dollars.
"Planting a small tree and nurturing it up will take years," he said.
The tree vandalism is the third major costly incident in less than a week, and follows a would-be treasure hunter that caused damage to 30 irrigation pipes after mistaking it for a valuable find.
"We just can't, as a council, afford to keep replacing these items that are getting vandalised," Cr Honor said.
Cr Honor said vandalism, including graffiti, cost the council millions of dollars a year to repair.
"It's a regular occurrence around the region," he said.
It is not clear how the vandal stripped the tree, but Cr Honor said it would have been relatively easy for an agile person.
"The tree is very uniform - it's almost like climbing a ladder," he said.
Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Senior Sergeant Joe Hildred said police were investigating.
"Any person that is found to have unlawfully damaged the tree can face criminal charges relating to wilful damage of property," he said.
Det Snr Sgt Hildred said the charge carried a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
"This type of wilful vandalism is unacceptable and every effort will be made to discover the perpetrator of this senseless act of vandalism," he said.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Police on 4153 9111.