Generic picture of land clearing.
Generic picture of land clearing.

Farmer caught illegally clearing land fails in court appeal

A CHARLEVILLE farmer caught illegally clearing 1838 hectares of land has had an appeal against his conviction and $112,468 in fines and costs thrown out of court.

Daniel James McDonald, whose property is 120km north of the rural town, claimed in the District Court among other grounds that the figure was excessive.

The court heard $46,397 of those costs came as a result of investigations after the State Government used information from "aircraft photographers" and assessed satellite imagery over a two-year period to catch McDonald's actions.

McDonald had submitted to the court the drought had a "devastating effect" on his family business and had left his family physically and emotionally exhausted.

The original trial in the Charleville Magistrates Court had heard a recorded conversation between McDonald and Department of Natural Resources and Mines officers where the accused had reiterated that point.

Court, Justice, Law, Courthouse, Brisbane Supreme Court, Queensland Court of Appeal, Brisbane District Court (File)
The Brisbane District Court heard the case. John Weekes

"I've explained to you over the phone why the clearing is taking place. It's still taking place cause we're still in drought. We are still feeding now okay," McDonald said.

The original magistrate did conceded McDonald cleared land of "least-concern regional ecosystem, and not a more endangered ecosystem"

McDonald was found guilty and convicted of six charges in breach of the state's sustainable planning act in August 2017 and had launched the action naming Christopher John Holeszko, a department investigator, as the respondent earlier this year.

In his appeal, McDonald argued he was entitled to deal with the land as he wished, regardless of legislation.

Judge Ian Dearden denied the appeal, stating "new evidence" tendered was available at the time McDonald was sentenced last year.