The owner of a North Queensland station accused of unauthorised land clearing has vowed to defend himself, saying it was difficult to interpret where he was permitted to clear.
The State Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) said it ordered the owners of Wombinoo Station to replant 132 hectares of native vegetation and pay a fine for unauthorised clearing.
Wombinoo Station had a conditional permit to clear 2,700 hectares for high value crops, but the department told ABC News clearing had occurred outside the permitted zones, in many areas across the property.
The total, when allowances for exemptions are considered, amounts to 132 hectares that the department deems unauthorised.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the owner of the station, Warren Jonsson, said it was difficult to understand the permitted areas.
“The approval included A4 maps and coordinates indicating the approval area. The information was difficult to interpret, and assistance was sought from DNRM,” he said.
Last month Mr Jonsson released a statement saying “any clearing on Wombinoo Station is the subject of a lawful permit or as of right, such as fence lines or roads”.
The Jonssons now say any clearing that has strayed outside the authorised areas was due to the difficulty in applying the maps and coordinates to ground features.
“Any discrepancies are a result of the difficulty with reconciling the mapping with the features on the ground, which was acknowledged by DNRM,” they said.
The Department said “modern GPS and other technology is readily available to landholders to accurately locate permitted areas for clearing”.
It also uses a “stringent monitoring regime” that “includes early-detection system imagery which provides an indication of changes in vegetation cover every 16 days and enables early intervention”.
In the Wednesday statement, Mr and Mrs Jonsson confirm that the department first raised concerns with them in early November.
Mr Jonsson said the department wrote to him on November 3 saying: “We are concerned there may be a difference in where the area is approved on the permit and where it is believed to be on the ground”.
“We would like to meet with you to show you our concerns, discuss how to rectify the matter and to see how better we can assist you in determining the permit areas”.
But he said there was no follow-up meeting.
He also disputed the timing of when he was notified of the fine and the order for 132ha to be replanted.
The Department said the landowners were notified by telephone on December 18, the same day the department released a statement about unauthorised clearing on the station.
But Mr Jonsson said he was not aware until the next day when an email about the action was brought to his attention.
Mr Jonsson’s statement concluded: “The Jonssons have acted in good faith at all times and to the best of their ability have complied with the terms of their permit.”
“The Jonssons deny any wrongdoing and will strenuously defend the allegations by DNRM.”