Park neighbour penalised for damaging reserved land
The Newcastle Local Court has penalised a plantation company near Myall Lakes National Park for damaging reserved land which included 19 species of native flora.
Australian Pine Products Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one offence of damaging vegetation on reserved land contrary to section 156A(1)(b) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
In late 2017, the neighbour enquired with NPWS about building a boundary fence between its plantation and the Myall Lakes National Park. They were advised to engage a surveyor and that clearing could not occur in the national park without a permit.
Australian Pine Products Pty Ltd did not advise NPWS of its intention to commence construction or the project’s details. They subsequently damaged vegetation on reserved land in mid-2018, clearing more than nine hectares within Myall Lakes National Park.
Environmental harm included impacts to plant communities and wildlife that may have relied on those plants for habitat, food and resources.
Myall Lakes National Park is a wetland of international importance protected under the Ramsar Convention.
Australian Pine Products Pty Ltd was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the Department’s costs of $8,000. In sentencing, the Newcastle Local Court considered mitigating factors including an early guilty plea.
The Magistrate specifically noted:
- That the Defendant was criminally negligent in clearing vegetation before surveyors had marked the boundary;
- The need for general deterrence and the conservation importance of the land as both a Ramsar Wetland and national park;
- The harm was short term as the vegetation would naturally regenerate and the Defendant was responsible for notifying the Department of the offending.
The penalty is a reminder to landholders to always contact NPWS and be careful when doing any work near national parks and other reserves.