Man bulldozed 500 trees

A WOODBURN man will have to pay $45,000 in fines and court costs after clearing more than 500 old-growth paperbark trees and swamp oaks from his property in mid-2007.

Jasen Allen Somerville was convicted of the offence in the Land and Environment Court this week. He was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $15,000 in court costs.

The trees were part of an endangered ecological community and it is believed many of them were more than 70 years old.

The contactor who undertook the clearing, Ross Anthony Ianna, was also convicted and ordered to pay costs of $15,000.

The court heard how Mr Somerville, a stock and station agent, did not seek consent for the work.

He also failed to carry out any environmental assessment.

It took two weeks to finish the work, which was done using a large bulldozer to clear an area of the property.

Investigators found that about 500 trees with trunk diameters of more than half a metre had been knocked over and placed into piles to be burnt.

About 150 of those trees were 15 metres tall.

The vegetation removed was classified as swamp sclerophyll forest on coastal floodplains. This ecological community is protected in NSW.

Following the clearing, members of the community complained to the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

The department’s director general, Lisa Corbyn, said the court’s decision had sent a clear message that the environment should be protected.

“The convictions and penalties should serve as a reminder to everyone that unauthorised activities risk significant penalties,” she said.

“A simple way people can avoid the risk of illegally clearing endangered plants is to ask before they act.”

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