Friday, July 8, 2022

Byron man fined $70,000 for illegal land clearing

A Byron Shire resident has been fined $60,000 for removing trees from a property west of Mullumbimby and slugged a further $10,000 for unauthorised building work.

It comes after Council was notified, in October last year, of alleged land clearing, tree removal and construction on a Boogarem Road property on the Koonyum Range.

Investigations found there was progressive land clearing between April and October last year on a 1,300m2 site including the removal of nine trees ranging in height from 15 metres to 25 metres.

An expert arborist/ecologist engaged by Council found the age of each of the trees that were cut down or pushed over was 40-50 years.

The property is in the Scenic/Escarpment zone where the clearing of land can only be done with development consent.

Council says the offence was aggravated by the fact that the Rural Fire Service had imposed conditions providing that clearing for bushfire hazard reduction did not permit the removal of trees over three metres in height.

Ralph James, Legal Counsel, said that the court found that the impact of the clearing, and the construction of an informal shower and toilet area, had a negative impact on the natural environment and that the clearing of native vegetation and earthworks modified the site which impacted native habitats and drainage

“This land borders a national park and, not surprisingly, the area is home to a number of endangered and vulnerable plants and animals,” Mr James said.

“The felling of Forest Oaks impacts directly on the habitat and food resources of the Glossy Black Cockatoo, a listed, vulnerable species known to occur in the area.

“Trees are highly valued in the Byron Shire and their removal, without permission, is not tolerated by Council, or the broader community, and the large fines imposed by the Magistrate in the Mullumbimby Local Court support this,” Mr James said.

“In addition to the $60,000 fine for removing trees, the defendant was fined $10,000 for the construction of the informal shower and toilet,” he said.

The defendant was also ordered to also pay Council’s legal costs of $5,000.

“I hope this sends a strong and very clear message to people that before you clear land or cut down any trees or do any building work on your property you should check with Council to see what is allowed and what is not,” Mr James said.

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