UPDATED: Council guilty of illegal tree clearing

UPDATED: REDLAND City Council has been told to replant trees along the foreshore at Cape Cleveland after it illegally cleared marine vegetation and was referred to the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

State MP Mark Robinson referred complaints from residents about the trees to the "relevant" state departments  and the matter was referred on to the CCC.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry investigated the tree clearing, which occurred in April last year along parts of Eddie Santaguiliana Way and Carolena Street at Cape Cleveland.

However, the council was not fined and dodged a court case after signing an agreement in May with the state.

The deal forced council to replant trees in four areas along the foreshore, where council spent more than $5000 chopping them down last year.  

It also stipulated council notify residents of the replanting by letter, on a webpage and with noticeboards before June 16. Residents claim this has not been done.

The view from Carolena Street in 2006.

The view from Carolena Street in 2006.

It is still not public knowledge which areas will be replanted and requests for the full terms of the deal from both council and  Mr Robinson were rejected.

Mr Robinson declined to comment as he believed some aspects of the complaint were still before the CCC.

Former councillor and Moreton Bay Wildlife Preservation Society Project Officer Debra Henry said she was told the matter was settled out of court to avoid costs to ratepayers.

Ms Henry said it was illegal to remove marine vegetation regardless of council’s August 2012 changes to its View Management Strategy or any petition.

"Marine vegetation was removed by RCC in early 2013. As this is an offence under State laws it could have resulted in court action, yet this would have been costly for ratepayers," she said.

"An out-of-court agreement was reached to achieve the best outcomes possible. This included restorative actions to mitigate the damage and education to avoid future clearing. 

"The agreement, signed by Redland City Council in May 2014 stipulated timeframes for the  various actions to be undertaken and clearly these timeframes were not met.

"The community welcomes the news that the agreement will be complied with, albeit outside the agreed timeframes," Ms Henry said. 

Redland City Council said it removed foreshore vegetation after requests from residents, including a petition signed by 50 people.  

It said it engaged contractors to clear the trees to respond to the community petition after it “relied on information provided by the state government”.

 “Council is working with the state government to ensure the area is revegetated through natural regrowth and seed banking,” the council said. 

“This will mean minimal planting or cost to council.  Using these natural regeneration techniques will mean a natural and appropriate species of vegetation will propagate in the area.”

A day after this story was put online, Redland City Council said: "It is incorrect to say that Council has been found guilty of illegal clearing of marine plants. Council has been working with representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for more than 12 months regarding vegetation clearing by Council contractors that relied on advice from State representatives.

"The agreement made with the State about the natural restoration of the area was the subject of further discussion during May and June 2014 including with a community representative, noting the State has recently approved the restoration program for the area.

"This advice occurred on 17 July 2014 and includes fencing and signage which is currently being implemented. Council accepts responsibility for the work carried out by contractors."