Local environment activist Jess Beckerling called the Weekly office yesterday afternoon (after today’s Oct 14 edition of the newspaper had gone to print) to tell us of this news.
Soon after the Shire of Manjimup released the following media release:
October 13, 2015: A magistrate has today [Tuesday, Oct 13] ruled that a penalty of $200,000, plus costs, be paid by Walpole landowner Sunland Pty Ltd for an act of unauthorised clearing works. The ruling is in favour of the Shire of Manjimup. This landmark case resulted when the Council voted to commence legal proceedings against the company, for direct contravention of clearing provisions established within the Shire of Manjimup Local Planning Scheme No. 4.
President Wade DeCampo stated that commencing legal proceedings was not a decision that the Council made lightly, but the extent of illegal clearing that was undertaken left them with no other option. “Though legal action is not a path we want to have to take, Council are incredibly pleased with today’s ruling as it sets a just precedent for other illegal clearing cases, not to mention incidents where the local planning scheme and relevant approvals are not adhered to.”
The illegal clearing took place within a subdivision in Walpole, known as Boronia Ridge, in May 2012. Shire officers responded to a complaint from a member of the public on the day of the clearing, and upon arrival found 15 individual lots on Merlot Court, McCallum Way and Karri Streets that had been cleared beyond the Shire and Western Australia Planning Commission (WAPC) approval. A stop work order was issued and served immediately.
“The Shire had an incredibly strong case against the landowner who changed their not-guilty plea to guilty,” said Cr DeCampo. “They didn’t obtain a permit for the clearing works, the clearing took place outside of the area of exemption and there was disregard for the Shire policies that are in place to protect the vegetation and fauna of the locality.”
“Our Shire is located in the epi-centre of one of the world’s known biodiversity hotspots, so yes, illegal clearing is something that we take very seriously because it is our responsibility to maintain this pristine environment,” said Cr DeCampo, who added that any monies that are received by the Shire as a result of the ruling, subject to Council approval, may be fed back into Walpole infrastructure.
The landowner has the right of an appeal, in regard to the severity of the penalty, through the Supreme Court.
The Planning and Development Act 2005 provides local governments with the power to prosecute actions which are deemed to be an offence. Section 218 of the Act identifies that the contravention of the provisions of a planning scheme constitutes an offence which may be prosecuted under Section 224.
Stages 2B and 3 of the subdivision, where the illegal clearing took place, are subject to an approved subdivision guide plan, which prescribes building envelopes within which clearing is allowable. Those building envelopes are sized to maximise the retention of native vegetation and lessen the impact of the development upon the landscape and environmental character of the locality.
Please refer to the Council Meeting agenda, attachments and minutes from 5 July 2012.