Sunshine Coast Council is coming down hard on residents who illegally clear or damage trees in council managed reserves, with a string of cases being investigated and heard before the courts.
In October, a Mudjimba couple appeared in Caloundra Magistrates Court and was fined $12,000 and ordered to pay $9272 in restitution costs after illegally clearing native trees in the bushland reserve near their property.
Both pleaded guilty to charges including clearing trees in the reserve, burning vegetation and storing cut vegetation from their property in the reserve.
In handing down her decision, Magistrate Stephanie Tonkin said the maximum penalty of $113,000 for illegal clearing and the fine handed down on this occasion reflected the importance the community placed on vegetation and habitats for native species.
In August 2019, the council prosecuted two property owners and a tree felling contractor for damage caused to vegetation in the Donegal Drive Environmental Reserve at Yaroomba.
An estimated 60 native trees were damaged and a large percentage of the total canopy cover was removed.
The two property owners were each fined $4000 and the contractor fined $1500, with convictions recorded. The court also ordered $4994.37 in restitution costs against two parties.
Acting Environmental Operations Manager Michael Anderson said council, through its Sunshine Coast Environment and Liveability Strategy, recognised the importance of protecting and enhancing our natural assets.
“Council takes a very strong stance when it comes to illegal tree clearing,” Mr Anderson said.
“Council receives regular complaints of illegal clearing and poisoning of native trees. We are grateful to those residents who report this to council as without their information, it is often difficult to find the culprits and prosecute them which in turn deters others from carrying out this environmental vandalism.
“Council also receives requests to trim trees on council managed land and carries out vegetation maintenance works in the park and reserve network for a number of reasons which includes ensuring public safety, delivering environmental outcomes, such as removal of weeds and replanting with native species, and protecting our assets and visual amenity in designated viewing areas for our community’s benefit.
“Our natural environment is part of what makes the Sunshine Coast so special and people can face significant fines for illegal damage if convicted.”
Council has received 123 complaints for illegal tree removal since January 2020, and there have been six serious matters at Buderim, Shelly Beach, Warana, Mudjimba, Marcoola and Yaroomba, reported to council in the last few months.
Council has also responded to an additional four matters concerning damage to vegetation in Pelican Waters, Bell Vista, Little Mountain and Coolum.
Four investigations are underway in reserves which have had vegetation damage including Mons School Road Bushland Conservation Reserve at Buderim, Liana Place Bushland Reserve at Forest Glen and two investigations at Marcoola-Yaroomba Foreshore Bushland Conservation Reserve, Mount Coolum.