Eidsvold producer fined $1m for clearing 350 hectares

Eidsvold producer fined $1m for clearing 350 hectares


Part of the fire break that Mike Baker created to protect his 9000-hectare Eidsvold property Chess Park.

Part of the fire break that Mike Baker created to protect his 9000-hectare Eidsvold property Chess Park.

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A property owner has been fined almost $1 million for illegally clearing native scrubland in central Queensland.

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Thursday, 11.45am: Michael Vincent Baker, Chess Park, Eidsvold, will appeal the decision.

Wednesday, 10pm: A property owner in Queensland's beef region between Bundaberg and Rockhampton has been fined almost $1 million for illegally clearing 350 hectares of native scrubland on his central Queensland property.

The million-dollar fine and costs were handed down in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday against Michael Vincent Baker from Eidsvold, about 470 kilometres north of Brisbane near Bundaberg.

The court found Baker guilty of 46 offences under both the Forestry Act and the Sustainable Planning Act and fined him $999,780 including costs.

Department of Natural Resources director-general James Purtill said Mr Baker kept clearing land despite being warned by the department.

"The fine handed down reflects the significant extent of the illegal clearing and Mr Baker's deliberate actions, despite direct warnings given to him by the department," Mr Purtill said.

He said Mr Baker originally contacted the department asking for advice about managing vegetation on his property.

However he never received a permit to clear land, Mr Purtill said.

"Mr Baker contacted the department in 2011 to seek advice about managing vegetation on his property," he said.

"But he continued to illegally clear vegetation without a permit despite being given clear information about his responsibilities."

Overall Mr Baker cleared 350 hectares of native vegetation his property between May 2011 and March 2014.

Mr Purtill said Mr Baker took advantage of Queensland's self-assessable codes to judge which land can be cleared and which must be protected.

"Queensland strikes a balance between enabling landowners to get on with managing their businesses by sensibly clearing appropriate vegetation, and protecting our environment," he said.

"Our self-assessable codes enable landholders to undertake a range of vegetation management activities without needing to apply for a permit.

"But the rules are in place to protect valuable ecosystems and reduce sediment run-off."

Mr Baker's actions were detected using satellite technology, then on-site inspections.

"In addition to on-ground inspections, the department uses satellite technology to quickly detect changes in vegetation cover across Queensland," Mr Purtill said.

"This enables us to make early contact with landholders if it appears they're doing the wrong thing.

"This ensures we can contact landholders before inappropriate clearing becomes widespread."

Mr Purtill said the department tried to work with landholders in the first instances.

"But it is important that landholders work with us and abide by the rules in place," he said.

Queensland's Parliament failed to pass labor's new tree clearing legislation put forward by the Palaszczuk Government in August 2016.

The legislative failure - when former Labor MP, now independent Billy Gordon - and the two Katter's Australian Party MPs voted with the Opposition to defeat the bill.

Labor said it would not try again in this term of office to introduce the tree clearing legislation.

Environment Minister Steven Miles and deputy premier Jackie Trad said the refusal to back tougher clear tree-clearing legislation could increase nutrient flow into rivers ultimately impacting the waters around the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Miles said in 2016 he would make it an election issue.

The Opposition accused the government of scaremongering.

"I am very pleased that the deliberate scare mongering and misinformation that was distributed by Labor ... did not cut through with ... the critical members of the crossbench, whose votes were very decisive in the final result," Shadow Natural Resources spokesman Andrew Cripps said in August 2016.

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