Matthew MooreJuly 23, 2011 –>
ONE of the country’s biggest property developers has been fined $200,000 by the NSW Land and Environment Court for unlawfully clearing 23 hectares of native vegetation.
Walker Corporation, which has more than $4 billion of developments under way across Australia, was given a record fine for a company under the Native Vegetation Act for clearing the land at a property near Wilton, south-west of Sydney, in 2006 and 2007.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) brought the case against Walker Corporation and persuaded the court the company cleared seven native species including black she-oak and narrow-leaved ironbark.
These species had provided homes to two endangered ecological communities and habitat for threatened species including the koala, powerful owl, spotted-tailed quoll and eastern bent-wing bat.
Walker Corporation pleaded not guilty to the charges and told the court it had employed a contractor, Environmental Land Clearing, to clean up the property, which had weeds growing on it and had been used as a site to dump cars. Its spokesman said the company would appeal the judgment.
The court heard the contractor used a machine called a ”mega mulcher” to clear vegetation on the site which degraded the habitat for a range of native fauna.
Mr Kenneth Turner, a terrestrial ecologist employed by OEH, said the clearing would lead to the direct or indirect deaths from starvation and other means of individual reptiles, amphibians, birds, bats and ground and arboreal mammals, during and after clearing.
Walker Corporation, which had never been convicted of an environmental offence, argued it was not liable because the contractor had held itself out to be an expert company and cleared the land without it authorising, supervising or exerting control over the clearing, an argument Justice Rachel Pepper rejected.
”The fact remains that the clearing that it did carry out was undertaken in accordance with and directly as a result of Walker’s instructions,” she said.