The landowners have just been in contact with me and we will sit down early next week.
They have thought long & hard and now recognize that they need to put things right and are figuring out what that might look like, from re-planting to working with DPI to adjust their Timber Plantation Agreement.
They are open to input from Council, DPI and most importantly the community.
Council and DPI processes are now in play and we will see were these go but perhaps we have an opportunity to repair and enhance this damage both to the environment and neighbourly relationships.
In short, he does not see the problem.
He believes (a) it is his land and he can do what he wants within the laws which he says he has complied with and is within. (b) He has only just begun, there is a lot more to come.
On (a) when I checked this out with him he really did not have much exact knowledge of the laws or rules, for example, didn’t seem to be aware of the Shire’s tree preservation order or rules on clearing on steep land.
On (b) I do not think he is relying on some forestry agreement (this was the story Council came back to us with previously). He is more relying on “it is my land and I can do what I want and I don’t bother any of my neighbours, so why are they bothering me” kind of approach.
When Repentance Creek Rd was sealed, about seven years ago, the community worked very hard to not have the road widened to the “legal” width to ensure we didn’t loose too many trees. At the time the Manager at Council in the Environment Dept was a local, Hank Bower, and we had great success. Hank spent hours of his own time tagging valuable trees, prior to the sealing, to ensure the roads dept didn’t “accidentally” take them out.
The next Environment Council-Manager followed on and did more good by having installed along Repentance Creek Rd, markers highlighting it is HCV (high conservation zone). These were installed as part of Council’s Roadside Veg Plan and which includes this now devastated section.
The Council may have more leverage as it seems clear that the work has crossed over into this road reserve area.
When contacting Council please make the above point about the road reserve and HCV. This will give Council leverage to take action.
Other points highlighted to me by others;
- It is clear that the owner has removed the trees to open up an extensive valley view. In the process, they have completely decimated the natural environment and koala habitat.
- I note that there was no traffic management at all in place during the works. Large trees were being removed less than 2m (on a steep embankment) from passing cars with no signage or traffic personnel in place
- Allowing the owner and the contractor to get away with this act of blatant vandalism will set a dangerous precedent for anyone in the area wishing to make illegal changes to their property in the interest of increasing property values. We urge all relevant bodies to act wherever they can.