10 January 2024

Landowner convicted and fined for illegal land clearing

| John Thistleton
Fallen trees on a property at Boxers Creek.

Fallen trees on a property at Boxers Creek near the Hume Highway east of Goulburn have led to a $3000 fine and criminal conviction for the landowner responsible for the clearing. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

A landowner who destroyed 90 mature eucalyptus trees across 50 hectares at Boxers Creek east of Goulburn has been fined $3000.

An appeal against the penalty in Goulburn Local Court last month was unsuccessful.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council took the court action after the NSW Department of Planning’s biodiversity unit drew its attention to the illegal clearing of trees.

The matter was heard in the Goulburn Local Court on Tuesday 19 December, following an appeal by the landowner against the $3000 penalty infringement notice which the council issued in June 2023.

The Department of Planning’s biodiversity unit reported visible tree clearing on a rural property near the Hume Highway in March, 2023. A subsequent investigation revealed that while approval had been granted to remove fewer than 10 dead trees, more than 90 trees were ultimately cleared, the majority of which were still alive at the time of clearing.

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The magistrate presiding over the case found the landowner guilty and upheld the $3000 penalty. Additionally, a criminal conviction was imposed upon the landowner.

The council said the court outcome should serve as a timely reminder for landowners to ensure they are fully informed before undertaking any tree removal or clearing activities, particularly in relation to native vegetation.

Recognising the increasing prevalence of unauthorised clearing, the council has been collaborating with NSW Local Land Services and the NSW Department of Planning’s biodiversity unit. Together they have developed a comprehensive “Call Before You Clear” campaign, set to launch in early 2024. The campaign aims to raise awareness among landowners about the importance of seeking appropriate approvals prior to tree removal.

As part of the campaign, a new and simplified factsheet will be introduced, providing clear guidelines on when approval is required and where it should be sought from. This resource would be promoted through each of the collaborating agencies, ensuring widespread dissemination of vital information, the council said.

The council said by working in partnership with relevant government agencies it aimed to foster responsible land management practices and safeguard the biodiversity of the area.

The council would not release more information about the clearing, including the landowner’s name.

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