gavel, court, generic
gavel, court, generic

Thousands in fines handed down for illegal marine park works

FINES totalling $27,000 have been handed out in a case involving damage to vegetation and other illegal works in Cape Byron Marine Park.

Master Alchemy Pty Ltd and builder Ben Jolliffe, 46, who was engaged by the company to build a wharf adjacent to a Childe St property on Belongil Creek, had each pleaded guilty to three charges, including carrying out dredging work, carrying out reclamation work and harming protected marine vegetation, all without authority.

That work was undertaken between October and December, 2017 but charges were not laid until last year.

Master Alchemy’s director, Kurt Rettenmaier, had originally been facing the same charges as an individual but those were withdrawn in January.

Byron Bay Local Court this week heard enquiries had been made with Byron Shire Council about the construction of a wharf being exempt from requiring a DA.

The parties had believed this assurance, from a council employee whose name they couldn’t recall, was enough, the court heard.

But Magistrate Karen Stafford said further enquiries should have been made, given the work involved water land inside Cape Byron Marine Park.

Each of the offences carried a maximum penalty of $220,000 for the company and $110,000 for an individual, although this was capped at $22,000 in the Local Court’s jurisdiction.

The court heard the dredging work involved the excavation of water land and placement of six timber footings.

Reclamation works involved 11 footings including concrete being placed in the water, while the damage to habitat involved eight mangroves being cut, sunlight being blocked from several more and 30 plants being surrounded by sediment.

The court heard the cut plants had re-sprouted in the two years since the work was undertaken.

“Both of them did honestly believe that the enquiries they made at council were sufficient,” Ms Stafford said.

While some of the work involved work to an existing marine wall, Ms Stafford said the wharf construction “extended well beyond … repair and retention of that wall”.

“Given the expansion of works into water lands, they should have certainly made further enquiries,” she said.

The court heard Mr Rettenmaier had “specifically instructed that there be no harm done to the mangroves”, but that there was little oversight of this.

“I accept that both are extremely remorseful,” Ms Stafford said.

“There are genuine expressions of remorse by each defendant.

“Both are people who are highly regarded in the community, people of good character, who have genuine concern for the environment.”

Ms Stafford said it was, however, vital to send a message of deterrence to the community and convicted the company and the builder of each offence.

She fined the company a total of $19,000 and ordered it to pay $5000 in legal costs to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, which was the prosecuting authority.

Mr Jolliffe was fined a total of $8000 and ordered to pay $3500 in costs.

Half of the fines will go to the DPI.

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