Main Roads spokesman Dean Roberts said the tree had to come down because it posed a serious public safety hazard.
“Although located on Main Roads road reserve set aside for the future Roe 8 project, the removal of the tree was not linked to this project which is now on hold,” he said.
“Main Roads authorised the removal of the tree following a recommendation from an arborist who deemed the tree a potential safety hazard with large, dry, dead limbs and evidence that some had fallen in the recent past.”
Mr Roberts said the tree’s location made it difficult to trim branches and remove a large beehive which affected nearby residents.
Residents were angry after the tree, believed to be more than 400 years old, was cut down about 10am on Tuesday.
Resident Linda Manning described the removal as vandalism.
“It was a growing tree – there were many live branches with leaves and growing tips,” she said.
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said cutting down the tree reflected “poor decision making at a time when trees of this stature and maturity are rapidly disappearing from our landscape”.