Man fined for felling 113 trees in national park

Issued: 31 Mar 2022

A man has been fined $15,000 by the Cooktown Magistrates Court over the felling of 113 old-growth trees in the Rinyirru National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) in far north Queensland.

In 2020, a timber export company entered into an agreement to log Cooktown Ironwood trees (erythrophleum chlorostachys) on two stations on Cape York Peninsula that border the national park.

The man was hired by the timber export company to conduct harvesting activities and he hired other people to conduct the felling.

Between 18 September and 22 October 2020, an unknown timber cutter employed by the man felled 113 trees in the Rinyirru National Park.

On 21 October 2020, a member of the public notified authorities about the felled timber in the national park, and later provided GPS points of location.

The felled trees were not removed from the national park.

In November, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers catalogued the felled trees, of which 93 were identified as Cooktown Ironwood, with the remaining 20 trees identified as various species.

Rangers measured the top and bottom diameter of every felled tree and provided the measurements to a botanist familiar with the ecology and vegetation of the national park and Cooktown Ironwood trees.

Using those measurements and data on published growth rates, it was estimated more than half of the felled Cooktown Ironwood trees had taken up to 250 years to grow, with the largest tree taking up to 466 years to grow.

The man was charged with one offence of taking a natural resource of a protected area without authority, in contravention of section 62(1) of the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

On 30 March 2022, the man failed to appear in court and was sentenced in absentia. In sentencing, the magistrate commented on the serious nature of the offences, including the age of the felled trees.

He was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay $250 in legal costs. As no conviction was recorded, he cannot be named.

As the environmental regulator, the Department of Environment and Science takes compliance seriously. The department has set clear expectations about acceptable behaviour in our national parks.

Where non-compliance is identified the department will take strong enforcement action.