Duo sentenced for destroying protected plants, dumping waste
Issued: 17 May 2023
A property owner and his employee have been fined a total of $23,500 and ordered to pay a total of $4,398.18 in costs for destroying more than 20 protected grass trees and illegally dumping construction waste into a creek on the man’s residential property.
The duo appeared in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on Friday (12 May 2023).
In June 2021, the 48-year-old man directed his employee to clear land on his property, north of Yeppoon, even though part of the property was mapped as ‘high-risk’ under the ‘Protected Plants Flora Survey Trigger Map’ under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, being an area in which threatened or near-threatened native plants are present or likely to be present.
This was despite receiving advice from Livingstone Shire Council in March and May 2021 regarding matters of local environmental significance, including noting a protected cycad plant on the property.
As a result of the clearing works, 23 grass trees were destroyed.
Grass trees (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii)are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.It is illegal to take or clear any native plants that are in the wild and are within mapped high-risk areas without a permit or under an exemption.
The property owner, who is also the owner of a Queensland house building company, also instructed his employee to deposit construction waste from other company job sites into a creek on the property.
Between May and December 2021, about 10 cubic metres of waste including bricks, concrete, timber, dirt and tiles was dumped into the creek.
Following investigations by officers at the Department of Environment and Science (DES), the property owner was charged with one offence of taking protected plants, one offence of carrying out assessable development without a development approval, and one offence of wilfully and unlawfully depositing a prescribed water contaminant in waters.
His employee was charged with one offence of taking protected plants.
The property owner has removed the construction waste from the creek and re-planted the 23 grass trees and has planted an additional 23 grass trees on his property.
Both men pleaded guilty and were sentenced in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 12 May 2023.
This outcome is a strong reminder to property owners that environmental laws still apply on private property.
Native flora and fauna species remain protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, even when found on a private property.
It is also illegal to dump waste into a creek on private property.
Following this investigation and the court outcome, the department hopes this serves as an important reminder to all property owners to be mindful of their responsibilities to ensure they comply with their environmental obligations to protect our precious environment.