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.