Leda drained wetlands and cut down koala habitat trees despite an interim protection order, according to an inquiry that triggered Tweed Shire Council’s sacking in 2005.
The report was critical of activities on Leda’s huge Kings Forest property which apparently went unpunished by authorities, including the pro-development council.
Inquiry head Maurice Daly said in his report that the Department of Environment outlined concerns about the council’s failure to take steps to stop ‘illegal clearing’ of the site.
He said the department spoke of its numerous submissions to both council and to Leda identifying the natural, scientific and cultural values of the land and advising that it had issued interim protection orders over the site.
‘Despite this, the department had become aware of further actions involving draining of sensitive wetlands and the clearing of threatened species habitat,’ Professor Daly said.
‘The department suggested delays on the part of the council in dealing with their concerns.’
Prof Daly cited evidence from a senior departmental officer who discovered during an on-site inspection that Leda was draining wetlands and had felled up to 80 native trees.
He also released an email outlining another officer’s concerns about the activities sent to the council chief planner, Noel Hodges, who later quit his post and worked as one of Leda’s consultants.
The officer told him that while Leda might argue existing use rights, it didn’t detract from the fact that the drainage works were likely to adversely impact on the wetlands’ ecosystems by ‘significant changes’ to the hydrology.
In an addendum to his second report, Prof Daly released more than 30 photographs taken on the site showing fallen koala-habitat trees, and bulldozers at work in wetland areas.
He said even after the council had been sacked, it had come to his attention that similar clearing work was continuing.
Neither the council nor the department could say if any action was later taken against the company but Leda has slammed Prof Daly’s comments and attacked one of the officers who gave evidence.
In its dossier sent to the council last month, Leda claimed that Prof Daly had never bothered to obtain evidence from the company.
It dismissed the evidence given by one of the officers as ‘completely at odds with the facts’.
‘Central to the inquiry’s findings detrimental to Leda has been the false, misleading and damaging evidence given by the department,’ the unauthored document claimed.