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Ballina to take legal action over land clearing

The clearing of land near Wardell has taken away important koala food trees, according to a report to be considered by Ballina councillors. (file pic)

The clearing of land near Wardell has taken away important koala food trees, according to a report to be considered by Ballina councillors. (file pic)

By Darren Coyne

The Ballina Shire Council will take legal action against a Ewingsdale resident who cleared threatened native vegetation from land at Wardell.

Councillors yesterday voted to ‘throw the book’ at the resident in response to illegal clearing of land at Pimlico Road, Wardell.

According to a report from council staff, the land contains predominantly native vegetation and some exotic grassland, and provides habitat for threatened and vulnerable species including koalas.

After becoming aware of the clearing last year, the council contacted the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, which advised that no approvals had been issued for the clearing of approximately 1.8 hectares of native vegetation.

After being issued a show cause notice, the landowner, Brian Camidge of Ewingsdale, had told the council that he cleared the land to enable the construction of a dwelling and an orchard to grow finger limes and Davison Plums, along with small crops of Russian garlic and ginger

Mr Camidge said he initially did not wish for any native trees to be removed, however some were removed for fencing and fire protection.

He said water tanks were installed and a dam was built for future use by the Rural Fire Service, and that there had been a large amount of rubbish on the land and that he wanted to beautify the area.

In February however, the OEH advised that the clearing constituted an offence under the Native Vegetation Act 1993 (NSW).

At yesterday’s meeting, councillors followed the advice of  the council’s environmental scientist who had recommended that the council pursue the matter in the local court for the offence of unauthorized clearing of native and threatened species vegetation.

The maximum penalty for the alleged offence is $110,000.

The council’s scientist said the vegetation clearing had directly impacted on conservation valued vegetation communities that were of state significance, and that the clearing could lead to increased weed growth and feral animal problems.

The clearing of Swamp Sclerophyll 
trees had also removed habitat for the vulnerably listed koala.

The officer said a successful prosecution would provide a ‘general deterrent’ to the general public for the unauthorised clearing of native and threatened species vegetation and associated earthworks.

Further, the environmental officer has also recommended serving formal orders on Mr Camidge to require the revegetation of the land.

Ballina mayor David Wright said councillors had also decided to issue an infringement notice to the land-owner the  the unauthorised dwelling pad.

Cr Wright said the council had previously pursued legal action for illegal clearing so the decision was about being consistent.

The council is also seeking to have the land regenerated.


4 responses to “Ballina to take legal action over land clearing”

  1. Ken says:

    These clowns should be made an example of !
    The environment is being destroyed by the ‘death by a thousand cuts ‘ method and every one of these environmental vandals thinks that they will get away with destroying just one more bit. If this is to stop,a strong message must be sent. The financial benefits these clowns receive must be overwhelmingly countered by huge punitive fines, hundreds of thousands of dollars at the very least and preferably gaol terms as well.
    G”)

  2. Catherine Cusack says:

    This is very upsetting in such a critical area for koalas. The most important action to be taken here is an order to re vegetate the land. Otherwise the fine will be more than offset by the increased land value.

    • Johann Hoefl says:

      I fail to see how there can be any increase in land value, certainly not a financial one.No one can build on it or farm it.

  3. Johann Hoefl says:

    No farmer in his right mind would buy land for farming knowing that he cant farm or build a house on it. Seems to me council was negligent when they slapped a preservation order on the property years before the new owner bought this rurally zoned property to farm it, by not zoning it a reserve. Council should be held responsible for the environmental damage, and the damage suffered by the land owner and council should restore the environment.

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