A Bullsbrook market gardener has been fined $18,000 with costs of $618 after satellite imagery showed he had illegally cleared approximately 8.8 hectares of native vegetation.
At Midland Magistrates Court, Quoc Tran, 40, pleaded guilty to clearing the land at Old West Road in 2017 without authorisation under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, following an investigation by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
The unauthorised clearing was detected using satellite imagery obtained from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, which DWER uses for a range of monitoring purposes.
The DWER investigation showed banksia trees and other native species had been cleared and pushed into piles following a fire. Banksia woodlands on the Swan Coastal Plain are recognised as a threatened ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. While once this ecological community was almost continuous across much of its distribution, today it is highly fragmented.
An application for a clearing permit had been made to the then Department of Environment and Conservation but was refused as the banksia woodland contained foraging habitat for the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo.
In court, Magistrate Kevin Tavener found Mr Tran had cleared the land for commercial purposes and said a substantial fine was necessary due to impact on the cockatoo habitat.
DWER also issued Mr Tran with a vegetation conservation notice, requiring the land holder to re-establish and maintain native vegetation within the cleared area.
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“Adhering to decisions on clearing permit applications is vital to ensure that inappropriate clearing of native vegetation does not take place.
“Clearing native vegetation after an application was refused is a serious matter as it undermines the integrity of Western Australia’s environmental laws.
“These laws have been carefully designed to manage the impacts on biodiversity, land conservation values and water resources from clearing of native vegetation.
“I congratulate the team at DWER for another successful prosecution and their ongoing work on illegal clearing.”