Eyes in sky watching for native vegetation clearing

  • Illegal native vegetation clearing costs earthmoving contractor $27,000
  • Satellite technology allows for rapid detection of vegetation clearing
  • Scope to expand technology to monitor and help manage native vegetation cover across WA
  • Satellite technology was instrumental in prosecuting a Bunbury earthmoving contractor who illegally cleared 16 hectares of native vegetation at a Gingin property.

    Ausmech Solutions Pty Ltd was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay costs of $7,459, after the unauthorised clearing that took place in 2016 was detected using imagery obtained from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.

    The person who engaged the contractor was also previously convicted and fined $30,000.

    Since 2017, two polar-orbiting satellites have been capturing images over Western Australia every five days, allowing the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) to rapidly detect and evaluate changes in vegetation cover.

    Where clearing is detected, the information is checked against DWER’s clearing permit system to ensure it is authorised, and that it has been undertaken within the specific area and limits set.

    DWER has convened a technical working group of experts from across government, to identify practical steps to improve the State’s information base for native vegetation.

    The group is exploring how best to build on the State Government’s use of satellite technology in monitoring other environmental issues.

    Anyone who suspects illegal land clearing can report it to DWER’s Pollution Watch Hotline on 1300 784 782, by email to pollutionwatch@dwer.wa.gov.au, or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

    More information about the Sentinel 2 satellite imagery can be found at:


    As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

    “Satellite imagery is vital in monitoring native vegetation clearing in a state as vast as Western Australia.

    “Since this technology came into place, clearing can be detected within days of it taking place, allowing DWER inspectors to engage with landholders early to minimise harm to the environment and to reduce unlawful clearing.

    “I have requested that DWER explore options to further use remote-sensing to improve our mapping and monitoring of the extent and condition of native vegetation in Western Australia.

    “We are focused on making best use of the data, systems and processes we already have and leveraging new remote sensing technologies to get accurate and up-to-date data at minimal cost.

    “The public should know that these surveillance tools are in force to monitor our native vegetation in Western Australia – and anyone breaking the law will be caught.”

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