Second conviction for Heywood land clearing and habitat disturbance

A second party has been convicted and fined over the illegal removal of mature Eucalyptus trees in the Annya State Forest, near Heywood, in 2021.

Tuesday, 16 May 2023 at 5:18 am
Mature Eucalyptus trees illegally cleared from the Annya State Forest

A southwest earthmoving contractor has been convicted and ordered to pay nearly $22,000 for the illegal removal of mature Eucalyptus trees in the Annya State Forest, near Heywood, in 2021.

The contractor was found guilty of cutting down the Eucalyptus trees from a state forest without a licence or permit under the Forests Act 1958, and disturbing wildlife habitat under the Wildlife Regulations 2013.

The contractor was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in costs at the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

The contractor was hired by a private landowner to clear trees in the Annya State Forest, which were close to a fence line with the private property.

Authorised Officers from the Conservation Regulator detected soil disturbance in Annya State Forest from what appeared to be vegetation works in July 2021.

The Authorised Officers observed a large number of felled trees that had been removed from the forest and pushed onto the adjourning private property. The Eucalyptus trees which had been felled were estimated to be more than 40-years-old and would have provided wildlife habitat to a range of common birds, mammals, and reptile species.

In sentencing, His Honour, Magistrate Lethbridge noted there are significant public policy considerations in this matter given the environmental impact that clearing of trees in a state forest has.

His Honour also commented that contractors have a responsibility to obey the law just like everyone else, and to ignore the legislative requirements in the interests of making money, is not good enough.

The private property owner was also charged with offences under the Forests Act 1958 and the Wildlife Regulations 2013, which he pled guilty to in April 2022. He was ordered to pay costs of almost $60,000.

The Conservation Regulator investigates all reports of illegal habitat destruction and vegetation clearing on public land in Victoria. The public is urged to report environmental crime to 136 186. Callers can remain anonymous.

It is the responsibility of individuals and businesses to understand what they can and can’t do on public land before they act, to avoid creating significant environmental damage like this.

Mature eucalyptus trees like these are home to hundreds of wildlife species including the powerful owl and their removal negatively affects native wildlife for generations to come.

Glenn SharpManager of Regulatory Operations, Barwon South West Region