A western Queensland man has been handed a record fine for illegally clearing more than 1800 hectares of native vegetation without a permit on a property west of St George.
Sam Scriven was convicted in the Roma Magistrates Court with illegally clearing 1819 hectares of native vegetation on a property at Nebine.
He was fined $118,000 and ordered to pay $23,823.59 for costs incurred by the Department of Environment and Resource Management to investigate and pursue the charges under the Integrated Planning Act 1997.
In a press release issued on Saturday, Natural Resources Minister Rachel Nolan said the result sends a strong message to landholders that they won’t get away with illegal clearing.
“This sort of illegal clearing is a huge threat to vulnerable wildlife and biodiversity in the Central Queensland region,” Ms Nolan said.
“We have tough vegetation management laws in place to protect our environment and landholders should know that we won’t hesitate to investigate and prosecute anyone suspected of illegal clearing.
“The record fine that has been handed down in this instance makes it clear – people who flout these laws will face tough penalties.”
Minister Nolan said Queensland’s vegetation management laws had made a huge difference in cutting down the state's carbon emissions and protecting precious biodiversity.
“The laws are there to protect our shared environment. I'd rather have DERM working with landholders than prosecuting them but flagrant breaches can't be ignored and I would hope that a fine like this will reinforce that,” Ms Nolan said.
“Mr Scriven did not consult DERM about the clearing, nor did he apply for a permit.
“It is understood that he argued the clearing was carried out to provide fodder as food for his cattle, however our investigation showed that the nature and scale of the clearing was not consistent with what would have been approved for fodder purposes.
“Experts have suggested his actions have caused damage to the local ecosystem including flora, fauna, and biodiversity.”
The clearing, which took place between 10 August 2006 and 22 February 2008, was discovered through analysis of satellite imagery by the Department of Environment and Resource Management’s (DERM) Statewide Landcover and Trees Study.
The advice to landholders wishing to clear vegetation was to always contact DERM first, as well as their local government and Federal Government agencies, to ensure they are abiding by relevant environmental management laws.
More information on vegetation management in Queensland is available at www.derm.qld.gov.au or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).