GLIDER DAMAGE: Elaine Saunders, of the Dirawong Trust Committee, points out where trees have been knocked down to make a clearing for para-gliders.
GLIDER DAMAGE: Elaine Saunders, of the Dirawong Trust Committee, points out where trees have been knocked down to make a clearing for para-gliders. Samantha Elley

The down side of para-gliding

PARA-GLIDER pilots have caused serious damage to bushland in South Evans Head to clear an area to enjoy their sport, according to Dirawong Reserve committee secretary Elaine Saunders.

The Dirawong Reserve stretches from the outskirts of Evans Head in the north to New Zealand Beach in the south, an area of 300ha, and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.

A letter from concerned residents who witnessed para-glider pilots destroying bushland has prompted the Dirawong Reserve committee to speak out against the wilful damage.

"It was late last year I saw the damage para-gliders had done while clearing a base from which to take off at Red Hill (north of Chinaman's Beach)," Ms Saunders said.

"I was shocked and mortified as we put so much effort into maintaining the Dirawong for the community to enjoy.

"To see that someone could be so arrogant that they can come in and strip out a huge area of native bush to indulge their own private passion is disgusting."

Ms Saunders said the damage included sawing out and pulling down mature banksias and other native trees.

"Because the trees are in such exposed areas, it will take decades for them to grow back," she said.

"They would have been about 40 to 50 years old."

After the damage was discovered, the committee got in touch with the Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding club who were equally shocked and arranged to set up joint warning signs and barriers to warn their members not to use the area.

"There's a fine of $200 per tree that is damaged."

Correction: A previous version of this story said it was hang glider pilots responsible for the clearing of vegetation. We have since been informed the culprits were para-gliders (who use specialised parachutes rather than semi-rigid kite-like structures to fly). The story has been changed to reflect this.



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