A CASTERTON father and son have been fined $7500 after pleading guilty to firewood offences in the Hamilton Magistrates Court this week.
One man pleaded guilty to offences under the Forests Act, the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act and the Land Conservation (Vehicle Control) Regulations.
He was placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond without conviction with the condition he contribute $5000 to the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club for use in local conservation projects. He also has to pay $218.22 costs.
The other man pleaded guilty to two charges under the Forests Act, received a similar good behaviour bond and has to contribute $2500 to the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club and pay $216.90 costs.
Several chainsaw chains seized as part of a search warrant executed at properties last year were also confiscated.
About nine cubic metres of timber was also forfeited.
Department of Environ-ment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Wimmera land and fire district manager Russell Manning said the prosecution came about after three search warrants and an investigation into the unlawful removal of forest produce from the Claude Austin State Forest.
“The court result serves as a timely reminder for anyone considering similar activities, particularly now that DEPI has initiated Operation Trident, a statewide compliance operation focusing on the unlawful removal and sale of firewood from Victoria’s public land,” Mr Manning said.
“The magistrate made comment in sentencing that this type of behaviour was contrary to conservation efforts and activities undertaken by DEPI.
“He also stated that if either of the two men appear before him again in the next 18 months, they will probably go to jail.
“DEPI officers know that firewood is being illegally removed from public land and sold. This has been an issue for many years.”
Any information about the illegal removal of firewood can be reported anonymously to the DEPI customer service centre on 136 186.