A Woodford woman accused of illegally felling trees on her land had been convicted of a similar offence 10 years earlier.
Lyn McKenzie, of 18-20 Old Bathurst Road, has been charged with “do thing forbidden to be done under [the Environmental Planning and Assessment] Act” of 1979.
She was charged alongside her husband, David McKenzie, who faces three counts under the Act related to having illegal shelters and shipping containers on their land. Mr McKenzie had also converted a garage into a building with a bathroom and deck and turned a carport into a home office.The pair pleaded guilty in Katoomba Local Court to their charges.
The couple came to the attention of the public followed the alleged illegal clearing of 1400 square metres of native vegetation at the front and rear of the property in early 2016. They had only recently purchased the $1.3 million property.
A Blue Mountains Conservation Society member saw the results of the clearing visible from the highway and referred the matter to the Office of Environment and Heritage for investigation under the Native Vegetation Act. Blue Mountains City Council pursued legal action through the local court.
Barrister Dr James Smith from Martin Place Chambers and a consulting solicitor represented the council in court. The court was told five long lived woody perennial plants, four metres or more in height and/or with a crown spread of more than four metres had been removed without council permission. Council’s executive principal of Environmental Health and Science Compliance, Brian Crane, was also in court for the day’s proceedings on Monday.
Legal counsel representing the couple, Ms Lalic, tendered a series of medical reports from NSW hospitals, as well as psychologist and psychiatrist reports.
She appealed for the matter to be dealt with under Section 32 (which applies to a defendant who has a developmental disability, a mental illness or a mental condition for which treatment is available in a mental health facility). Magistrate Fiona Toose heard there were “previous convictions”.
But Dr Smith said “the excuses proffered by my friend are not dissimilar [to the 2008 case].”
Ms Lalic had earlier said Mrs McKenzie did not believe she had contravened the Rural Fire Service’s 10/50 Code of Practice (Vegetation Clearing Scheme). The scheme allows people to clear certain vegetation near their homes to improve protection from bushfires. The scheme was introduced following the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.
“She admits she should have made further enquiries … but that belief was confirmed by the [tree felling] contractor,” Ms Lalic said. She tendered photos to the court showing the land being regenerated.
In response magistrate Fiona Toose said: “Your client was previously convicted [for felling trees at another property] that didn’t spark her enthusiasm to make further enquiries … she didn’t enquire of the council, having previously been prosecuted by the council?”
The matter was part heard on Monday and was adjourned to November 20 so the material from the earlier trial can be heard.