Residents of Opito Bay near Kerikeri are devastated after the discovery that someone has killed their beachfront pōhutukawa.
The picturesque row of trees along the beach had been looking sick for a while, according to locals.
But it's now been confirmed they were deliberately poisoned.
Yvonne Sharp, whose grandfather planted the row of pōhutukawa in the 1960s, said the community was horrified and very sad.
"We'd noticed for some time that the branches looked very dry but just in the last couple of weeks, there were leaves all over the place... it looked terrible. "
Mrs Sharp, who is a former mayor of the Far North, said at first she wondered if the trees had myrtle rust. She called the council, to see if an aborist could come down and check.
"They found the holes drilled in the roots and obviously poison had been put into the trees."
Opito Bay is the closest beach to Kerikeri and for decades, families had picnicked and played under the pōhutukawa in summer, she said.
It was beyond belief that anyone would harm them.
She did not know if anyone felt the trees blocked their view of the sea.
"I live just across the road, and I can tell you they didn't spoil the view, they framed it, they enhanced it," she said.
"People are feeling absolutely devastated. These trees are precious to us, particularly to my family."
Everyone had their own theories about who might have poisoned the pōhutukawa, Mrs Sharp said.
"You can't prove anything, when something's done presumably in the dead of night - no-one's saying anything. But it's really sad because this is a lovely little community down here and to think that someone amongst us would do such a horrible thing, it's pretty disturbing."
Mrs Sharp said she hoped the council would replace the dying pōhutukawa with the biggest new ones it could find. But it would be years before they graced the bay with the beauty and shelter the old ones provided, she said.
It's hoped new pōhutukawa can be planted to replace those which have been poisoned in Opito Bay.