August 26, 2013
A Mt Hooghly farmer has faced the Maryborough Magistrates Court this week for the illegal removal of 21 large, old eucalypt trees from his property.
The man received an aggregate fine of $20,000, with conviction, and was ordered to pay the Council’s costs of $5116 and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) costs of $194. A stay of six months was given in which to pay these amounts.
The court heard that in July 2012, the man engaged a contractor to remove the trees without a planning permit, some of which were estimated to be between 200 and 400-years-old.
The matter was jointly prosecuted by DEPI and Central Goldfields Shire Council.
DEPI’s Senior Biodiversity Officer, Peter Johnson, said: “These are serious offences as the hollows in these old trees cannot be instantly replaced for wildlife in the area. There is a number of unique species which are totally or largely restricted to temperate woodland habitat in Victoria.”
“A number of these are threatened species that are dependent on hollow-bearing trees, and are particularly vulnerable to this type of impact. In addition to the direct loss of habitat, the loss of connectivity with other patches of trees was also a notable observation in this case.”
“Many birds species also need the protection and shelter of trees to move unhindered between food resources.”
“Hollows in trees can be defined as small fissures or cracks in which species of Micro-Bats, Yellow-footed Antechinus, Sugar Glider or Brush-tailed Phascogale can seek refuge or gather beetles, spiders and a range of other food items. Larger, visible hollows are often used for shelter during breeding periods. Many bird species also use hollows for shelter or breeding.”
Central Goldfields Shire Council’s General Manager Technical Services, David Sutcliffe, said: “Council has regulations and processes in place to protect our environment and also community members. The outcome of this case is likely to provide a deterrent to illegal clearing for some time.”
“If anyone in the shire is unsure of Council’s processes and regulations, they are encouraged to contact us before they act. Our staff are more than happy to assist, and this will prevent events such as this from occurring.”
The man faced a charge under section 126(2) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 for using land in contravention of the Central Goldfields Planning Scheme, which states that “a permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation, including dead vegetation.” Charges were also laid under regulation 9(1) of the Wildlife Regulations 2002 for wilfully destroying wildlife habitat.