The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s first pursuit of a court case over the logging of rocky outcrops has resulted in a conviction and fines for a NSW company.
The EPA brought legal action against the Forestry Corporation NSW for breaches in Glenbog State Forest on top of Brown Mountain in 2013.
The judgment handed down in the NSW Land and Environment Court on Thursday enforced an $8000 fine and the covering of the EPA's legal costs, believed to be $65,000. The maximum penalty for the offence is $22,000.
The Forestry Corporation pleaded guilty to breaching a threatened species licence and failing to conduct a thorough search for rocky outcrops.
In an affidavit, Forestry Corporation CEO Nicholas Roberts expressed contrition on behalf of himself and the state-owned company, while outlining steps he says will prevent re-offending.
An EPA spokesperson welcomed the court's findings and said the outcrops are important landscape features, providing unique habitat refuges.
Their investigation began when members of native forest conservation organisation South East Forest Rescue submitted breach reports in 2013, with the EPA commencing proceedings on October 7, 2015.
South East Forest Rescue spokesperson Scott Daines said the decision is “too little too late”, and the financial penalty for breaches are “too low”, making them ineffective.
“If a private citizen were to commit these breaches they would be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of serious concern is that it has taken four years for this to be finalised. In the meantime, Forestry Corporation is still out there logging rock outcrops,” he said.
A Forestry Corporation spokesperson said in the four years since the breach, “significant investments” had been made to improve processes and train staff.
“While the rocky outcrop was situated in impenetrable scrub and no actual environmental harm occurred, we acknowledge that protocol was not followed and we regret that this breach occurred,” they said.
Apology: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information. The Bombala Times apologises to Wilton Logging for the error and any hurt and distress caused.