A COMPANY which illegally cleared 38 hectares of native vegetation and may have displaced several koalas on a Halfway Creek property was fined $200,000 in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney on Thursday.
Judge Shaehan found Graymarshall Pty Ltd had breached the Native Vegetation Act by completely clearing six areas of the 170ha property of white mahogany, tallowwood and red mahogany.
One company director was found to have participated in the clearing, which was done on the instructions of both directors using a D6 bulldozer and a D65 excavator.
Neither director was named in the judgement.
Judge Shaehan said no defence evidence had been filed in the case and there had been no appearance or response from Graymarshall since the offences were proved in July.
The court viewed a June 2009 development application made by Graymarshall to Clarence Valley Council for a boundary adjustment of five lots of the subdivision.
The DA states: "Each proposed allotment has significant cleared areas available to accommodate future dwellings, effluent disposal areas, etc., and interested purchasers have indicated that the [four 40ha] allotments ... are to be used for agricultural purposes (blueberries), similar to the numerous other farms in the locality."
Expert evidence as to the damage caused by the clearing was provided by conservation technologist Philip Redpath, who found that two hectares of the cleared land was listed as an endangered ecological community under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
"Wildlife records identify 222 species within 5km of the centre of the defendant's property," the judgement states. "Some threatened species of fauna are 'likely to be present in the subject area', including birds and mammals which require 'hollow-bearing' trees or logs for their micro-habitat.
"Loss of such critical habitat is described as 'significant', and recovery is slow - relevant trees are slow growing, and hollows take a 'very long time to form' (120 years, or, in some cases, 500 years).
"Redpath opines that the 'loss of 38ha ... of a severely diminished resource, such as mature forest containing a diverse range of tree species in various age classes and many of an age and size class that would contain hollows, would rate as very harmful'."