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Byron Shire
October 4, 2023

Fingal Head locals outraged at rare-tree ‘massacre’

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Police and council officers ordered tree-felling contractors at Queen Street, Fingal Head, to stop work early this morning.
Police and council officers ordered tree-felling contractors at Queen Street, Fingal Head, to stop work early this morning.

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Fingal Head residents are outraged by the ‘wiping out’ early this morning of most of an endangered littoral rainforest remnant on a private property whose owner had a subdivision bid knocked back several days ago.

Police and Tweed Shire Council staff were called out just after 7am by shocked neighbours of the 40 Queen Street property where the tree-chopping contractors were ordered to stop work.

Neighbours, police, council officers, consultants and contractors were mulling over what community leaders have described as a ‘massacre’ of trees on the property which they say are part of a critically endangered ecological community (EEC) protected under federal law.

It is not the first time such clearing has sparked the community’s ire. Earlier this year locals were also outraged when some trees were chopped down there and council officers were called after complaints.

One person at the time took it to extremes by painting large-lettered graffiti ‘Tree Murderer’ on the old house there.

This morning, a neighbour said that the ‘very very rarest’ trees within that EEC appeared to be the ‘first to be cut down’.

The early-morning clearfelling of the trees shocked the community as the word spread around fast.

The owner, Robert L. Nankivell, had his bid for a two-lot subdivision, to remove the existing dwelling and build two new ones rejected by council 4-3 on Thursday night, with pro-development Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne voting to approve it.

The plan included removal of trees on the property to accommodate the new homes.

In recommending rejection of the plan, council planners said approval ‘could set an unwarranted precedent for the location of residential development adjacent to fragile ecosystems, resulting in fragmentation and destruction of significant environmental assets’.

Fingal Head Coastcare president Kay Bolton and Fingal Head Community Association president Karen Morrison were on site this morning and both expressed disbelief and disappointment.

Ms Bolton told Echonetdaily that while the remnant was on private property, it adjoined an endangered littoral rainforest community behind the headland dunes.

During debate on the developer’s plan last Thursday night, Cr Katie Milne said there was a real concern approving the subdivision (which meant removing non-federally protected vegetation) ‘could set a very dangerous precedent for littoral rainforest in this shire’.

Cr Milne said councillors had to be very aware of a new bushfire regulation (vegetation clearing entitlements in designated areas) by which ‘some species are at extreme risk now’.

‘It’s vital we preserve this extremely rare type of vegetation as we can’t afford to lose it,’ Cr Milne said.

Ms Bolton fears some people may try to exploit the new state laws now in place, but she emphasised that permits were required when certain types of endangered trees or vegetation were concerned.

She said littoral rainforest species by their nature were fire retardant and did not pose a bushfire threat and, as far as she knew, there had never been a fire in a littoral rainforest recorded.

Cr Gary Bagnall told Echonetdaily he was incensed at what had happened.

‘We told the owner not to take those trees out and now someone’s gone and wiped them out, that rainforest remnant had been whittled away at recently, now the job seems to have been finished’.

Council officers are now investigating the incident.

The graffiti painted on the house in Queen Street, Fingal Head earlier this year.
The graffiti painted on the house in Queen Street, Fingal Head earlier this year.




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  1. In the current political climate where no value is placed on natural assets or environmental sustainability there seems to be a contingent of environmental vandals who think they have a right to destroy trees, forests and waterways on ‘their land’ with complete disregard for the impacts on the wider environment. Governments at both state and federal level are giving out clear messages that they consider this to be OK.
    And now not only trees are being murdered but also people who are trying to protect them! What is going on? Governments at all levels urgently need to work together to protect the tiny amount of precious remnant ecosystems that remain within our largely trashed landscape and not sanction blatant flouting of the few environmental protection laws that exist.

  2. This property owner showed his attitude towards the law earlier in the year when he chopped down trees, and yet the pro-development councillors still voted in his favour. They are disgraceful!

  3. I wonder who the tree contractors are. They should know better than this if they work in the industry… [If any wrongdoing is established], they should be held accountable along with the landholder. EEC penalties should be $11,000 per plant or tree harmed. [If any wrongdoing is established] I hope this landholder gets the book thrown at them. It appears this landholder disagreed with the councils decision and spit the dummy and the endangered coastal rainforest took the brunt of the anger. Just recently a landholder shot and killed an environment officer out west. If council, the EPA and police do not start doing something to illegal land killers then everyone will feel that if they don’t like regulations, they can go willy nilly and do whatever they want. Disgusting really that the State Government does not seem to take protecting our threatened species and their habitats protection seriously. [If any wrongdoing is established] they should fine this landholder and tree loppers to set an example and then use the money to force the landholder to rehabilitate the site and to never ever be allowed to sub-divide…

    • recently on my Facebook page there was a post by somebody demanding to know why farmers need to comply with the PNFP for clearing their own land. now when 1 land-holder does comply, and they clear their own land, you “Hope” et.al., get up in a quixotic rage.

      I really think you should read: PLENTY v. DILLON (07 March 1991) – [1991] HCA 5 (07 March 1991)! find out what Plenty did when Constables Dillon & Will went onto his farm without permission.

  4. Sounds like some people need to get a life!
    I bet the people who are protesting this own homes on or near beach front and they probably did the same thing when building their homes, however long ago. What’s good for the goose is never good for the gander.

    Defacing other peoples property because they removed a tree on their own land is the only crime here.
    I hope they were caught with the ink still drying on their finger tips

    If these people care so much about a tree why don’t they just ask for it so they can plant it in their front/back yard? Oh that’s because it would wreck their beach front view… it’s a tree people get over it.

  5. Thats right James some people do need to get a life. Some people refuse to see or acknowledge the BIG picture . They see it as their God given right to obliterate the environment and look at everything in terms of dollars verses environment . Namely dollars right here and now for themselves and of coarse the environment always has to lose in that equation .
    It was that same attitude that obliterated our precious rain forests that had evolved over sixty million years . The rarest of which is Littoral rainforest and no James you are not talking about a tree here you are talking about an eco system which is part of a much bigger eco system . Not only did industry and ignorant settlers ( farmers ) obliterate it . They piled the proceeds , timber no amount of money can now buy up in the paddock and burnt it . With the exception of a handful of surviving farmers they and those industries are extinct . What does that tell you James ?
    Industry , farming , housing , recreational activities , the environment should be integrated and included in all of it . A healthy environment is good for us and critical to our existence . However I do agree with you on one thing James . Defacing other peoples property is also environmental vandalism shame on you . It does the cause more harm than good it’s silly delinquent juvenile behaviour .

  6. Get ready for this being a common occurrence under the new 10/50 legislation. Threatened species and EECs can be cleared without consent. What the landholder did was entirely legal under this legislation, now he can put his da back in without the trees being an issue; bizarre that this wasn’t predicted when this legislation went through and more rigour put in the act. On the other hand the rfs and planning say its all about cutting green tape…

  7. “Defacing other peoples property because they removed a tree on their own land is the only crime here.”

    “What the landholder did was entirely legal under this legislation”.

    Let’s have a balanced debate based on the law. Trees cut down legally on private land.


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