Two landholders from the Moree area have been fined more than $700,000 plus costs for illegally clearing native vegetation on properties at Croppa Creek.
Cory Turnbull and his uncle Grant Turnbull were sentenced in the Land and Environment Court today.
They had both pleaded guilty to the charges.
Cory Turnbull was fined $393,750 for one charge under the Native Vegetation Act of unlawfully clearing native vegetation on the property Strathdoon in 2012.
This is a record fine imposed by the court for this offence.
Grant Turnbull was fined $315,000 for one offence of unlawfully clearing native vegetation on the property Colorado between June 1, 2012, and January 5, 2013.
The Turnbulls were also ordered to pay the costs of the Office of Environment and Heritage.
In the decision handed down in the Land and Environment Court today, Chief Justice Preston took into account the need to impose sentences that denounced the deliberate conduct of the defendants.
He said it was important to deter both them and other people from committing similar offences.
The penalties also reflected the court’s finding that the offences caused substantial harm to the environment.
This included the loss of native vegetation of high conservation value and important native fauna habitat, particularly koalas.
Office of Environment and Heritage chief executive Anthony Lean said the high penalties were a reminder that any clearing must be within the law.
“This was the second phase of clearing on these properties, the first of which occurred in 2011 and was the subject of a successful prosecution of relative Ian Turnbull,” Mr Lean said.
“The sentences send a clear message that the court takes the protection of native vegetation very seriously.
“While these offences occurred under the now-repealed Native Vegetation Act, landholders need to ensure that proposed clearing is lawful under the new Local Land Services Act.”