Volunteer Michael Powell replaces plants stolen from the Cotton Tree Cenotaph.
Volunteer Michael Powell replaces plants stolen from the Cotton Tree Cenotaph. Patrick Woods

Volunteers: Stop taking plants from Cenotaph

A SMALL team of volunteers that loyally tends the gardens and lawns at the Cotton Tree Cenotaph has been facing a constant battle with people stealing plants from the military memorial.

Neil "Prickles" Longden, 84, and his co-volunteer Michael Powell, 63, are determined to maintain the cenotaph, spending up to two hours daily ensuring it remains worthy of the men and women it honours.

They are working towards having it looking its best for Anzac Day, less than three weeks away.

The duo and other helpers make sure the plants are watered, the lawns mown and the garden beds mulched, but they face constant hurt from the heartless thefts.

"Our aim is to get it up to a standard for people to be proud of it," Mr Longden, whose father served at Gallipoli before his 17th birthday, said.

Mr Powell, whose grandfather served in the First World War and father in the Second World War, said the need for constant garden repairs and plant replacements was "horrible".

"You put a lot of time into preparing these things, and people come along and take them as if they belong to them," Mr Powell said.

"People sort of think they like them better than looking at them in the garden, so they pull them out and take them home.

"It's not very good at all. It's horrible the way they do things like that.

"But that's how people are these days.

"They do these things. I don't know why.

"They have little respect for things."

The volunteers get little support for their work, although council has provided some plants and mulch.

Mr Longden said the issue could be resolved through the education of the public, who need to learn the importance of the memorial.

"We've got a lot of younger generations who need to know," he said.

"I can't do any more.

"I just want people to come down, have a little respect, and leave the plants alone."

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