A company operating at Bundabah in the Port Stephens area was given the maximum penalty after being found guilty in Raymond Terrace Local Court on Thursday of four counts of unlawful activities on waterfront land.
In the case brought by Grant Barnes of the Natural Resources Access Regulator, Tea Garden Farms Pty Ltd was ordered to pay $22,000 for each of the offences plus professional costs of $20,000.
The offences involved removing vegetation at three sites on Nanabah Creek, and depositing rock and turf at one of the sites.
The unlawful works, carried out between August 2014 and October 2016, were offences under s91E of the Water Management Act 2000.
Magistrate Shields said it was important the public understood that the work of the regulator will be taken seriously and appropriate sanctions will be imposed by the courts.
Mr Barnes welcomed the court’s finding, noting the significance of the financial sanction imposed.
“This judgment sends a clear message to landholders that if they flout our water management laws they risk the full force of the law,” Mr Barnes said.
“Unauthorised works can cause instability of stream banks, soil erosion and an increase in sediment, as well as destruction of habitat.
“In this case, the unauthorised works were carried out on a creek which drains into Fame Cove in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
“Approvals are needed to carry out these works to ensure they are done in a way that minimises harm to the waterway, other water users and the environment.
“It’s up to us all to protect and maintain the integrity of our waterway environments,” he said.
The NRAR’s investigators and compliance officers travel all over the state’s 57 watersharing plan areas, inspecting properties and assessing compliance with water users’ licences and the Water Management Act 2000.