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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Goonengerry land-clearing ‘not a council issue’

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Some of the cleared land at 205 Repentance Creek Road, Goonengerry. Photo Angus Underwood

Byron Shire Council says it has no powers to intervene to prevent land-clearing of endangered subtropical lowland rainforest at a Repentance Creek Road property despite the fact that it appears some of land being cleared is on Council’s own road verge.

A council spokesperson said the recent clearing was ‘being undertaken under the auspice of a Timber Plantation Plan approved by DPI. The plan applies to the whole property.’

But Angus Underwood of Federal Landcare told Echonetdaily it was ‘clear these trees are not destined for forestry’.

While the landowner may be permitted to cut down plantation timbers, he said the rainforest in question had been ‘pushed into a pile and the owner has applied to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for a burn permit’.

Echonetdaily understands both Byron Shire Council and the RFS have referred the matter to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), which oversees timber plantation permits.

Mr Underwood said the forest, which appears to have been clear-felled, was ‘typical of regrowth in the area’ and that lowland subtropical rainforest is a listed endangered community under NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and Critically Endangered under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

‘The area is mapped as high conservation value land by Council, provides habitat for a range of threatened species and is located within a regional wildlife corridor,’ he said.

A spokesperson said Byron Shire Council was ‘aware of the clearing on land at 205 Repentance Creek Road and staff have been in contact with the land owner and the DPI’.

‘Enforcement of clearing under the approved plan sits outside Council’s enforcement powers.

‘Council staff have asked that the DPI do a compliance inspection as soon as possible due to the level of public enquiry being made,’ the spokesperson said.

But Mr Underwood said given the proximity of the clearing to the road, Council should undertake its own investigation.

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  1. Whatever are the rules and whichever level of govt is responsible for this act of environmental destruction, it has occurred in Byron Shire in an ecologically important corridor with existing koala habitat. Goonengerry residents are loudly calling for Council to make a more active investigation to ensure there are no avenues for Council to be involved, especially on their own roadside areas which in this case is mapped as important environmental zone.

  2. Council’s Compliance Department is a joke! A year ago I had my neighbour clear directly beneath the escarpment in pristine Wanganui Gorge. Despite my attempts to stop these works in what is a provisional e-zone, the owner simply stated that he was doing a ‘scrape’ of existing rural/agricultural land. Council said “Oh, okay.” Council was not interested in my evidence of photos or my knowledge of the pre-existing state of this valuable and sensitive eco-system, having lived here for nearly 40 years and my intimate knowledge of the property in question.

  3. From the photo something dark and sinister is happening out of Church down near the creek, near the road verge on virgin ground. Will they repent oh Lord. As the dark shadows spread in the clearing and the trees are lopped on one side so they are lop-sided and then there is the final cut, and there is a felling and a tree comes down, down to the ground. Was there a koala in that tree? Did a tree fall?
    Is this a clothed optional area where there could be a bear animal? We look to the powers, the council and receive back a dark, dark stare … no trees there. No carbon capture and storage, nothing there. That is indeed a dark and black tainted story. Shutter speed 22F in failing light.

  4. Thankyou for reporting on this issue, which seems to have been waved away by council all too easily. Perhaps the outrage of the community at this vandalism will convince them a bit more common sense is needed to protect this fragile ecosystem.

  5. Bureaucratic obfuscation and passing the buck. It’s not the fault of council or DPI. Blame rests entirely with the land owners who have selfishly pursued their own interests with complete disregard for responsible land ownership and stewardship even if they are operating within DPI guidelines. This scenario has demonstrated the inadequacies of current legislation and no doubt a shortage of funds and personnel to enable closer scrutiny of any land clearing activity in high conservation value areas. I’ll be planting a few more koala friendly species on my block. Koalas may only be regarded as vulnerable however it’s this kind of reckless clearing activity that will eventually push them into endangered status.

  6. Of course Council has heaps of power and resources to injunct the land owner from clearing habitat with out consent,

    The DPI permit doesnt allow the owner to breach threatened species acts etc.

    It appears Council knows about it and has form in turning blind eyes to breaches,

    Sooner we commence in engaging in citizen initiated litigation our environment will be just trashed by these vandals

  7. The trees and vegetation shown in the photograph would appear to have no connection whatsoever with what is commonly referred to as “plantation timber”; just observe the matchstick-like stumps in the foreground. I seriously doubt that whatever is happening on this property would fall under the parameters and definitions set in a DPI Timber Plantation Plan. That is of course unless the owner has plans for just that on the property …. plantation timber; which usually means pine. I doubt it.

    Why then?

    What is going to happen here? Don’t forget of course that the most unlikely and large areas of rainforest land was clear-felled back in the day all the way up to the end of the valley at Huonbrook for dairy farming!

    • This was certainly not cleared for timber havest, It was cleared to build some kind of retreat under the foolish guise of Plantation timber harvesting.Lets not be fooled again. 3 or more burn piles stand as big as 2 storey buildings.,, I live next door to the poor bloke who shares their boundary…Very Very sad,, watch for the smoke plumes of sorrow bellowing from the hills very soon.

  8. Lowland sub-tropical rainforest is listed as critically endangered by the federal environment dept. The landowner may have committed an offence under the EPBC Act by clearing it.

  9. Seems currently fashionable to blame councils but it is the COALition state and federal governments that are leading the charge to destroy every tree in NSW.
    Sure councils are failing us, yet the laws or lack thereof around forestry are made at State/Federal level. Where is the Nats golden boy Franklin on this issue? Nowhere to be seen.

  10. Am I reading a news article here? Or Arthur Miller’s “ the Crucible? Smacks of the latter to me. Ok, so maybe they haven’t been born and bred in the area and therefore intimate with every tree in the neighbourhood but I know these folks and they would never take such action without a valid reason. Reasons that you clearly would not be interested in hearing as it’s just too much fun to bring others down. Every one has a passion, for some it’s animals, for some it’s environment, for some it’s human sufferings etc. Thats great. Obviously no body on this platform cares a whole lot about each other or your fellow man, or causing great pain and anxiety for others. Surely there are better ways to reach out and get to the heart of the matter. Calling these people selfish? If only you knew. These folks are the least selfish people you could meet. They have done so much to help their fellow HUMANS and saved a multitude of lives. They care passionately about their causes and maybe one of the lives they have saved is some one you love. Go on hit me with your ever loving hate mail responses. Just get some perspective first

    • Hey Jenny,,

      The Goonengerry community is still waiting to hear that valid reason.

      Unfortunately nobody brought these people down but themselves.

      Yes we all have passions, But without an environment they are meaningless.

      Saving HUMANS as you say is certainly no ticket to scrape our much loved forests and wildlife into the bin. It takes a person blinded by greed to perform these lowest of acts.

      If they hate trees so much perhaps they should have settled in Federal.

      It ‘s unfair to think they have decimated the forest on their property but still get to live in a beautiful forest setting. Would they still want to build their commune if all of Goonengerry followed their example.

      Sorry but we will never be accepting of these types in our precious community.


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