Logging company fined for unlawfully logging

Issued: 8 Nov 2022

A Townsville logging company has been fined $10,000 in the Cairns Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to unlawfully cutting down a number of trees in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area near Cooktown.

The company was ordered to pay $2,000 in legal costs. No conviction was recorded.

The penalties have been welcomed by the Wet Tropics Management Authority (the Authority) and the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

The company was charged with one offence of doing a prohibited act contrary to section 56(1) of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993.

Scott Buchanan Executive Director of the Authority said the outcome of today’s ruling sends a strong message.

“The Queensland Government is serious about protecting our World Heritage Areas. The sentence handed down by the Magistrate demonstrated a strong willingness to deter others from these kinds of illegal activities,” Mr Buchanan said.

“The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is protected for its outstanding universal value to the World, and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.”

The company was responsible for felling 28 trees in the World Heritage Area at Shiptons Flat, Rossville, over two weeks in late October 2020. The species consisted of red tulip oak, black bean, red mahogany and cadagi.

The Court heard the company knew a range of approvals to log trees were required, including from the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and the Authority.

The company conducted the logging despite the absence of any approvals, which led to the environmental damage.

Logs from the felled trees were transported to a holding yard in Townsville. In November 2022, DES investigators attended the holding yard and seized the logs.

Investigators also executed a search warrant at Shiptons Flat and catalogued tree stumps, felled trees left in situ, and vegetation damage as a result of access tracks at the site.

In sentencing, the Court accepted that the company was a small operation with no prior convictions and that it had pleaded guilty.

The Court also accepted that the company did not make any money from the unlawful logging and through its actions was helping local Elders. However, the Court found that the company’s actions were “not entirely altruistic” in that it had hoped paid business may follow in future.

The Magistrate stated that had the unlawful logging been commercial, she would have “added a zero” to the fine.

The outcome of a different court case, where a commercial logger intentionally cut down trees in order to sell them for profit resulted in a sentence of twelve months in jail.

The Wet Tropics is recognised as an area possessing outstanding scenic features, natural beauty and magnificent sweeping landscapes.

Michelle Friday, Chair of Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, who are Traditional Owners of the region, said: “Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation is the trustee of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji traditional estate on which the offences occurred.

“Jabalbina and the Authority work together to manage the area to ensure that World Heritage values are protected and that these kinds of illegal activities do not occur,” she said.

The Authority and DES will take strong action, including prosecutions, in order to ensure the ongoing protection of the World Heritage Area.