Plant Stealing Offences in New South Wales

Australians spend a significant amount of money landscaping their gardens and adding touches of green all around their homes.

Indeed, not only do plants look pleasing aesthetically, but they can also improve air quality and have positive impacts on people’s mental health.

So, when plants suddenly go “missing” from people’s gardens – an act that is against the law and becoming increasingly common – it is not surprising that victims have been left feeling far from rosy and have often lashed out.

Such is the case of a Sydney woman who had a plant stolen by a stranger from the front of her Bondi home on O’Brien Street.

The plant sat amid a row of vegetation alongside a fence where it was dug up from the ground and pilfered.

And what happened next was scathing, to say the least.

The victim, understandably enraged over the senseless theft, left a series of colourful messages for the person who stole her plant, written across two signs.

She placed them on her fence and on a wooden stake dug in the ground where the plant used to be, hoping the robber may return.

“To the person who stole this plant,” one sign reads.

“The plant you helped yourself to was planted by me at my cost and was part of a row and took several years to grow.

“This garden bed is for everyone’s enjoyment and is an improvement to the general vista of the street.

“How cheap and selfish are you?”

“May your toilet back up on a public holiday.”

Remaining on the toilet theme, on the second sign, the woman continued her angry sentiments regarding the plant theft.

“I bet you steal toilet paper from public lavatory’s [sic] too?” it reads.

Bondi Community Rallies Behind Woman and Implores Plat Thief to Turn Themselves In

Following the plant robbery, photos were posted to the Bondi Local Loop Facebook page by the frustrated resident.

Locals were left astonished and riled up, with many supporting the woman’s plight and urging the perpetrator to make themselves known.

“What scum,” one local said, slamming the plant thief.

“Wow. That’s a new low,” another commented.

According to research, in 2020, Australians bought more plants than ever, with the country spending $2.6 billion on more than two billion plants.

Unsurprisingly, people confined to their homes during the first wave of COVID-19 restrictions accounted for a significant portion of this growth.

In fact, fuelled against the lockdown, indoor plant sales rose nine per cent, while sales from production nurseries into retail garden centres grew 10 per cent, according to figures from the Nursery Industry Statistics survey.

Overall, a $200 million increase in sales in the 2019-20 financial year was noted.

While many Australians continue to adapt to working from home in some capacity, over the coming years, the plant proliferation is not expected to reverse any time soon.

In line with this, a trend report by Plant Life Balance has shown an overwhelming percentage of survey respondents intend to keep growing their own edible and indoor plants in the years to come.

Plant Stealing Offences in New South Wales

You’d be forgiven for thinking taking plants from somebody’s garden is not exactly a crime; indeed, it is certainly not as apparent as other, more common unlawful acts.

However, stealing plants from gardens is, in fact, against the law, with the wrongdoing falling under the broader offence of stealing.

In NSW, the law on stealing plants from a garden is outlined in section 520 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Section 520 states that a person who steals, or destroys, or damages with intent to steal, any plant, root, fruit, or vegetable produce, growing in any garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, nursery-ground, hothouse, greenhouse, or conservatory can face a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail, or a fine of $550, or both.

In NSW, plant theft offences are dealt with in the Local Court.

It is worth noting that in NSW, plant theft and tree vandalism on public land is also serious criminal offence.

Those caught in the act can face harsh fines starting from hundreds of dollars, depending on the severity of the offending.

By Sahar Adatia.

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