On 25 May 2021, the Shire of Esperance was fined $25,000 for each offence and ordered to pay $783.50 in costs after clearing native vegetation on two separate occasions within a reserve at Fisheries Road, Howick. The clearings occurred in 2016 and 2018 and were undertaken for the purpose of gravel extraction.
Investigations by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) found that the Shire applied to clear the area but withdrew the application stating it would reapply after conducting further investigations. DWER had advised the Shire that further flora surveys would be required before the application could be assessed.
No further application to clear the area was received however DWER confirmed that clearing had occurred during an inspection in 2018. The area cleared was found to be within the boundary of the nationally listed threatened ecological community (TEC) ‘Proteaceae Dominated Kwongkan Shrublands of the Southeast Coastal Floristic Province of Western Australia’.
Further to the prosecution, DWER also issued a vegetation conservation notice, requiring the Shire to revegetate the unlawfully cleared land and report annually on the progress of the works for a period of 10 years.
The Court acknowledged the area cleared was "extremely vulnerable", providing habitat for threatened flora and fauna in the context of a heavily cleared landscape.
DWER Executive Director Compliance and Enforcement, Stuart Cowie, said the court outcome was appropriate and sent a strong message against illegal clearing.
“The Department is committed to ensuring clearing is done lawfully, and in line with relevant laws and regulations,” Mr Cowie said.