Court rejects secrecy on eco-advocate's national park damage
PROMINENT Noosa environmentalist Ian Russell Trew (pictured) yesterday pleaded guilty to damaging trees in a Gympie region national park.
Gympie magistrate Chris Callaghan rejected prosecution and defence requests to suppress details of the case or Trew's identity.
The trees were cleared by contractor Brenden Paulger whose business, the court was told, had not adhered to Trew's instructions on which trees to clear.
Paulger was fined $2500 in February, a penalty which included consideration of his co-operation with authorities.
Asked to impose an order to keep the case secret, Mr Callaghan said he agreed with a higher court opinion that such powers lay with the parliament, not the courts.
"Even if I am wrong about that and courts do have power, it would have to be in exceptional circumstances, and I see none here.”
He said Trew, a supporter of the Noosa Biosphere, had pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching the protection of natural resources in protected areas between August 19 and October 4, 2015. His desire to work in the environmental industry was "not exceptional”.
Trew told the court he had done what he thought was an adequate GPS survey, based on extensive military experience with maps and navigation, to determine the boundary between his Mothar Mountain property and the Woondum National Park.
His method would have had a 10m potential error either way. His instructions to keep outside a 10m buffer would have prevented any tree felling within the national park, as improper clearing had only intruded 7m into the national park. This was effectively admitted by Paulger, who had said, "Some of my boys might have made a mistake”.
Trew agreed he might have eliminated the problem by engaging a professional surveyor to determine the boundary.
The clearing, for cabin sites associated with a planned Buddhist school, had involved varying estimates of tree damage, including an "agreed fact” that "of 47 trees felled, one was on Trew's property and the other 46 on the national park”. Another estimate was 48 trees removed and another 31 damaged.
Trew responded to a claim that the trees had fetched $23,000 by telling the court this was for a total of "300 trees-plus logged in the location and 48 on the national park”.
"I still feel sick about the whole thing,” Trew said.
Mr Callaghan said Trew was a "party to the offence and not the principal offender” and fined him $2500, with no conviction recorded.