A proposal in 1977 to cut down 21 Norfolk Island pine trees to widen The Grand Parade at Brighton-Le-Sands caused outrage.
One Rockdale Council alderman described it as “the greatest act of proposed vandalism to be perpetrated on this municipality”.
The Department of Main Roads proposed the removal of the trees in Cook Park, between Bruce Street and The Boulevarde, to enable a right-turn lane into Bay Street.
A four-metre wide strip of land would have been taken for the widening.
Rockdale Council, the trustee of Cook Park, unanimously rejected the proposal.
The deputy clerk said the council had no warning of the proposal and had subsequently objected to the Minister for Lands.
Alderman R Whiteoak described it as “desecration”, while Alderman M Rae said it was “the greatest act of proposed vandalism to be perpetrated on this municpality”.
“The whole atmosphere of Brighton-Le-Sands is wrapped up with these trees along the beachfront,” Alderman Rae said.
Several aldermen said it was part of wider plans to upgrade the road route from Kyeemagh through St George to the rail yards at Chullora for the movement of goods from the new port under construction in Botany Bay.
They said it emphasised the need for a Kyeemagh-Chullora county road to take traffic from the port.
It would be more than 24 years before the M5 East motorway opened in 2001 to partly meet that need.
The right-turn lane into Bay Street was later provided without the need to remove the trees.
Thomas Saywell, who developed Brighton-Le-Sands planted the first Norfolk Island pines in the area in front of his New Brighton Hotel about 1883.
They gradually expanded along the beachfront from Kyeemagh to Sans Souci.
A milk bar named The Pines used to stand opposite the beach on the corner of The Grand Parade and Gordon Street.
It was replaced by a block of home units, called Norfolk Towers.
Former long-time mayor, Ron Rathbone, in his history, Brighton le Sands - the Suburb that Grew from the Sand Hills, said Saywell got the idea for the pines after noting how attractive they were on the beach at Manly.
He had also been aware they had been grown successfully around the Prince of Wales Hotel at Sandringham since the early 1870s.
In 1929, Rockdale Council planted more pines all the way to Ramsgate.
Most of the pines planted by Saywell were destroyed by a raging gale in 1917, while others fell victim to a cyclonic storm in 1966, which washed away part of the promenade and Cook Park.
The council has an ongoing program of planting new pines,which take many years to reach their maximum height, growing at between 600mm to 1,000mm a year.
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