Court orders firewood cutter to pay more than $21 000

Wentworth Local Court yesterday (Wednesday 12 May) ordered a Balranald firewood cutter to pay more than $21 000 in fines and legal costs.

Mr Bruce Vincent Williams was convicted on 10 breaches of the forestry act and regulations.

He was fined a total of $5490 and ordered to pay legal costs to State Forests of NSW totalling $16,124.

In addition, payment of $3007 is to be recovered by way of royalty for the unauthorised removal of firewood.

Mr Williams formerly held a timber licence with State Forests, which allowed him to remove dead fallen timber (mainly sawlog residues) as firewood.

The breaches involved the unauthorised cutting of green trees on Oxley State Forest, which Mr Williams was not authorised to cut under his licence, and undeclared semi-trailer loads of timber removed from various areas in which Mr Williams had operated.

Charges were laid following a significant period of surveillance of Mr Williams' operation by State Forests' staff.

Barrister Mr Glenn Bartley, acting as counsel for State Forests, submitted that Mr Williams was guilty of premeditated and systematic dishonesty.

In passing sentence, the magistrate observed that the laws are there to protect the forest and refused to apply the 'first offence' provisions.

State Forests Mildura Forest Centre manager Mr Peter Murray said that this was a significant fine that sends a strong message to people that the judicial system views the theft of a resource that belongs to the Crown as a serious matter.

“This activity also impacts on licensed cutters trying to make an honest living cutting firewood, who should not be forced to compete in the market with persons who are not paying for timber that they remove,” he said.

Media contact: Peter Murray on (03) 5023 1400.