Former National Party candidate for the seat of Richmond at the last federal election, Alan Hunter, faces a fine of up to $100,000 for illegal development at his property near Mullumbimby.
Mr Hunter, who lives at Pinegroves Road, Myocum, pleaded guilty in Byron Bay Court last Friday (Feb 12) to development without consent after he excavated a much larger area of land than allowed under a development approval issued by Byron Shire Council in 2009.
He is expected to be sentenced on March 30.
Mr Hunter, who is also the Nationals’ current chairman of the Richmond electorate, had earlier this year pleaded not guilty to another charge of illegal development alleging he had placed 18 shipping containers on his property joined together to form a storage facility.
But a Council spokesperson said that charge was withdrawn after Mr Hunter offered to plead guilty to the unauthorised excavation.
The charges arose after staff inspected his property in November last year following a complaint from a nearby resident.
During the inspection, it was discovered he had excavated an area more than 60 per cent longer and 10 per cent wider than allowed by the consent conditions.
Council’s corporate governance manager Ralph James said Council would seek a substantial fine and the successful prosecution ‘should send a signal to landholders thinking about carrying out unauthorised development’.
He said Council would also pursue costs of $2,200.
Council has submitted two cases from the Land and Environment Court which dealt with similar issues; one case resulted in a fine of $20,000 while the other resulted in a fine of $37,000.
The maximum fine for a breach under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is $100,000.
Mr James said council consent conditions ‘are put in place to ensure there is sustainable land use in Byron Shire’.
‘It is not for individual landowners, no matter who they are, to decide they do not wish to comply with laws that are in place for benefit of the wider Byron Shire community.’
Mr James urged locals to notify Council if they believed unauthorised developments were being carried out.