- Thursday, 8 December 2022 at 11:14 pm
A harvesting contractor has been fined $20,000 for clearing koala habitat at a Cape Bridgewater property, which a Magistrate said likely could have caused unreasonable pain or suffering to that property’s koala population.
The contractor pleaded guilty to one charge under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 after accepting a sentence indication at the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court today.
The contractor worked at the Cape Bridgewater site from November 2019 to January 2020. It was one of two businesses hired by the landowner to clear vegetation from the former operational blue gum plantation. The contractor used an excavator to remove stumps, some of which exhibited regrowth and that served as koala habitat, in a discrete part of the property. The contractor was responsible for a minority of the clearing at the property.
In sentencing the contractor, His Honour Magistrate La Rosa stated that habitat removal needs to be done in a “sensitive fashion appropriate to conditions”. His Honour noted how those engaged in this type of harvesting work “need to be careful” and that “the reduction of habitat would have led to recognition [on the part of the contractor that] it would have been insufficient for the [koala] population to survive adequately”.
The court outcome follows a thorough investigation by the Conservation Regulator, after Forest and Wildlife Officers responded to reports of injured and starving koalas at the Cape Bridgewater property in February 2020. It is not alleged that the contractor sentenced today caused any pain or suffering to these koalas.
The landowner and a separate forest and earthmoving business were charged in December 2021 with 126 offences each under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and the Wildlife Act 1975, including 18 aggravated cruelty charges for causing fatal injuries. Both cases are still before the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court.