Recent cases

A continual source of contention between landholders and government regulators has been the stance taken by the Department of Natural Resources and Water in enforcing the Vegetation Management Act. One case received a great deal of publicity in Central Queensland. The matter involved the clearing of 11,830 hectares by a prominent cattleman and member of the Acton Land and Cattle Co, which owns more than a million hectares in the district. The defendant pleaded guilty and was fined $100, 000 - one of the largest penalties to date.31 No conviction was recorded and there was no order for costs. The reasoning behind the court's leniency in respect of costs was attributed to the cooperative nature of apparently lengthy negotiations and the guilty plea . Nearly half of the land cleared was granted to the defendant under a pastoral lease. Such leases typically contained a covenant to ring-bark or destroy trees and clear a given area of land. This case highlights the problem of pastoral leases granted under earlier versions of the Land Act conflicting with the current compliance provisions of the Vegetation Management Act.

In the same year in another land clearing case the defendant landholder was fined the maximum fine of $125,000, ordered to pay costs of $65,530 and compensation of $85,353 and had a conviction recorded against him. This landholder chose to appeal and was ultimately heard in the District Court of Queensland where the major part of his appeal was upheld.32 The landholder subsequently referred the regulators to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

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