Ballina man cut down mangroves to ‘protect community’
A SOUTH Ballina man has been fined $2800 for harming more than 230 mangroves in the Richmond River as part of "road safety" measures for the community.
David John Felsch, 60, appeared before Ballina Local Court on Tuesday to plead guilty to two counts of harming protected marine vegetation without obtaining a permit.
DPI allege he cut down 221 mangroves from the Richmond River at Keith Hall on February 8, 2018 and removed a further 15 mangroves from the same area on February 13, 2018.
However, Felsch disputed on Tuesday during a hearing that he had cleared the entirety of the alleged 627sq metre of mangrove area.
The mangroves were located near the South Ballina ferry terminal.
Felsch told the court he had pruined some of the mangroves to provide better safety for the ferry and road users by clearing their view of the bend in the road.
"It's an irony all I want to do is keep our road safe," Felsch said.
More than 20 people, including NSW politician Dr Fred Nile, stood outside the courthouse in support of Felsch.
Dr Nile even gave evidence in the hearing in the form of a character reference.
"I've known David for many years now …. he is a very truthful, honourable man," Dr Nile said.
The court Dr Nile, who is a NSW MLC, was in parliament at the time the very DPI legislature was passed and he had voted against it.
Magistrate Karen Stafford said she accepted Felsch did not realise he needed a permit before cutting the mangroves and he acted the way he did because he was "community minded".
"(His actions were) to ensure the ferry crossing the road there was a clear line of sight," Ms Stafford said.
But Ms Stafford said there was "unshaken evidence" of the DPI, which included a report stating the harm caused to the mangroves could result in 20 to 30 years before they're fully recovered and that Felsch was "detected by CCTV cameras" cutting some of the mangroves.
Felsch was convicted and fined a total of $2800 for harming the mangroves without a permit, with $1400 to be paid as moiety to the prosecuting party.
He was also ordered to pay legal costs of $2000.
Speaking to The Northern Star after the hearing concluded, one of Felsch's supporters said he intended to appeal the decision.