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The costs are so light, it makes crime profitable in Penrith, NSW

Cumberland Plain Woodland is critically endangered. For the illegal clearing of about 3 hectares Penrith Council deemed that a fine of $1500 was an appropriate penalty. Council ten years ago took a landowner to Court and they were fined $70,000 for clearing 3 hectares of River Flat Forest which is classified as endangered, a lesser category than critically endangered.

Monday 1st July, 2011

Penrith Council issues a pathetic $1500 fine for illegal clearing of critically endangered bushland

Penrith Council has sent a clear message to land owners and developers that it is open season on the natural heritage of Penrith by failing to use the full force of its powers to fine a Castlereagh land owner who cleared about 3 hectares of Cumberland Plain Woodland which is listed as critically endangered at a State and Federal level.

For the illegal clearing of about 3 hectares of Cumberland Plain Woodland Penrith Council deemed that a fine of $1500 was an appropriate penalty. Council ten years ago took a landowner to Court and they were fined $70,000 for clearing 3 hectares of River Flat Forest which is classified as endangered, a lesser category than critically endangered.

Geoff Brown, President of Western Sydney Conservation Alliance Inc, said, with disgust:

"This is a typical response of a pro-development anti environment Council. This amazingly ineffectual and inappropriate penalty is a flashing light to developers and anyone else wanting to profit from the destruction of Penrith's critically endangered bushland that, hey, go ahead and take the risk, Penrith Council doesn't really care, we're open for business and all you'll cop is a slap on the wrist."

He said, that, based on this fine by Penrith Council all the CPW in Penrith could be illegally cleared and the penalty issued would only be about $1 million.

A developer is looking at making that sort of money with 1 hectare of land these days so the message Council is sending to developers is, financially, illegal land clearing is worth it if all we will face is a fine of $500 per hectare.

They can simply factor it into their business plans.

But the Council should have taken the miscreant to court.

"Council definitely had the option to take this land owner to court but has chosen to take the cheap option of only issuing an penalty infringement notice. This again reinforces the belief of many that when it actually comes to protecting the environment and the public interest Penrith Council is all talk and no action."

Matter should have been referred up to Federal Environment department

Apparently the Council has not taken taken correct measures:

"Because Cumberland Plain Woodland is critically endangered at a Federal and State level any actions to harm it have to be in accordance with Federal and State legislation including referring the action of clearing directly to the Federal Environment department for assessment. So many checks and balances have been avoided by this example of illegal land clearing. Penrith Council's pathetic fine fails on so many levels to send a clear message to the public about what is right and wrong and why there is a need to protect bushland. Councils pathetic enforcement is why CPW is on the brink of extinction."

Absurd and immoral token penalty

Mr Brown illustrated the absurdity of Penrith Councils almost symbolic penalty:

"The public often hears of footballers copping fines of thousands of dollars just for consuming a few beers yet here we have life, species, that have evolved over millions of years to survive only in Penrith, destroyed for ever and the fine is only $1500. Something is clearly wrong."

Source: Western Sydney Conservation Alliance Inc, Comments: Geoff Brown President WSCA, 0431 222602

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According to Bush Heritage Australia, although it has been reduce somewhat, we are still clearing much more native vegetation than is being replanted or that is regenerating naturally. Clearing increases erosion and sedimentation of waterways and reduces water quality. Rates of land clearing in Queensland and New South Wales are still unacceptably high and proposals continue for development in northern Australia involving clearing of hundreds of thousands of hectares.
In addition, land clearing helps weeds and invasive species to spread, affects greenhouse gas emissions and can lead to soil degradation, including erosion or salinity, which in turn can harm water quality.
Revegetating land to a complexity that resembles intact native vegetation is difficult and expensive. For every 100 hectares of bush destroyed, between 1,000 and 2,000 birds die from exposure, starvation and stress. Nearly half our mammal species, including some wombats, wallabies and bandicoots, are either extinct or threatened with extinction as a result of land clearing, habitat destruction and other threats.
The Australian Greenhouse Office has estimated that land clearing contributed 13 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions during 1996.
The Wilderness Society has raised concerns that the Coalition’s interim assessment policy for mining and gas developments will fail to include core environmental concerns, including clearing of threatened forests, and disposal of polluted water from coal seam gas operations.
Land use – including agriculture – makes up around 23 per cent of Australia’s emissions. Halting land clearing could reduce emissions by up to 63 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent a year, nearly half of the government’s unconditional target of a 5 per cent cut by 2020. Land clearing includes clearing for urban development or pasture land.
According to the WWF, by 2030, we will need two Earths to soak up the carbon dioxide we emit and supply the renewable resources we currently base our lives on. By 2050, under current predictions, we will need 2.8 Earths to support us. Beyond that – with the human population forecast to reach more than 9 billion people – there is no guarantee the Earth can continue to support us all. Certainly not in the same way we are currently living. Humans are digging at, consuming, polluting and chopping away at their only home as if there were other planetary options!