Farmer not guilty of land clearing claim

Rebecca TriggerCountryman

A peak farming body has welcomed a not-guilty verdict for a South West farmer after a three-year legal battle over land clearing.

The Department of Environment and Conservation charged Manjimup farmer Peter Swift with breaching a section of the Environmental Protection Act relating to unauthorised clearing of native vegetation – an offence that left him open to criminal prosecution and penalties of up to $250,000.

But Mr Swift said the 14ha of vegetation that he was accused of destroying was cleared before he bought the Manjimup property in 2007.

A Bunbury court found him not guilty of the offence on Wednesday.

WAFarmers has branded the State’s environmental protection laws “illogical” and are calling for the removal of criminal penalties to better protect producer’s rights.

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“That farmers can face fines for grazing, burning off or other standard practices on their land indicates a lack of understanding of agricultural processes by the then Department of Conservation,” WAFarmers president Dale Park said.

“We continue to call on the State government, as we have for a number of years, to work with stakeholders to ensure farmers can clear their land within accepted agricultural practices.”

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