A blueberry farming company in Dunoon has paid a hefty price for challenging a fine issued by Lismore City Council in relation to the use of a bird scare gun.
In June 2017, Council received complaints from the Dunoon community about noise generated from an LPG-powered bird scare gun deployed at a blueberry farm in Cowley Road, Dunoon.
The gun was emitting a loud blast like a firework being launched every three to five minutes, which is classified as ‘intrusive noise’ under NSW laws.
Council served a direction to the company to take preventative action in June 2017, which required limiting use of the scare gun to no more than six shots per hour.
In June 2018, Council again started receiving complaints from the Dunoon community about the use of the bird scare gun in contravention of Council’s direction. Investigations resulted in an $8000 fine being issued by Council under the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act.
This was appealed and the matter went before Magistrate David Heilpern in Lismore Local Court this week.
Magistrate Heilpern convicted the company for failing to comply with Council’s direction under NSW environmental laws, and reduced the fine to $2000, however, the company was also ordered to pay $20,000 of Council’s legal costs incurred in defending the appeal.
Magistrate Heilpern noted the particular circumstances and mitigating factors of the offence, whilst acknowledging the serious nature of environmental offences. Magistrate Heilpern noted that: “This is a matter that falls at the low end of the scale for offending conduct” before adding that it was “important to send a clear message to those who pollute in contravention of a direction.”
The blueberries at the farm in Dunoon have since been covered with bird netting to replace the need for a bird scare gun.
Council’s Manager of Development and Compliance Peter Jeuken said the Court outcome was a strong warning of the potential consequences for people who fail to comply with Council compliance directions that are issued to protect community amenity.
“Many residents of the Dunoon community were affected by the use of this device over an extended period of time, and the sentence reflects the lack of an appropriate response by this company to those genuine community concerns,” Mr Jeuken said.
“Where noise adversely impacts a whole community, Council will take firm action based on the evidence to ensure reasonable amenity is maintained, and people should be aware that Council has a 95% success rate in defending its compliance and enforcement actions in Court.”