A FARM owner who supplied dam water to neighbours during drought will face court tomorrow on charges of illegally removing native vegetation near the dam.
Graeme Watkins allowed water to be pumped from the spring-fed dam on his Yanakie property to help neighbouring farmers last summer.
But he has been charged by South Gippsland Shire Council for removing native vegetation without the correct permits, and will face the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court after refusing to pay the fine.
Mr Watkins said the cleared area is the drain that led to the dam, which he said was cleaned out in late 2015 and previously in 2009.
Mr Watkins and his wife lease out their farm, and he said he did not approve or arrange the works.
South Gippsland Shire Council regulatory services manager Matthew Patterson said fines could be imposed on the owner, the person who did the work or the person who directed the work to be done.
“Because the drain had been cleaned out about every five years, I certainly didn’t think a permit was ever necessary,” Mr Watkins said.
“I probably hadn’t thought about it a lot. I just assumed because it was a man-made drain that had been cleaned out on a regular basis it wouldn’t need a permit.
“I’m pretty bitter. I’m not happy at all, to be quite honest. For the life of me I can’t understand why I’m being prosecuted for this.”
Under Victoria planning laws, a permit is not needed to remove native vegetation for regrowth less than 10 years old on lawfully cleared land.
But Mr Watkins’ property is under two overlays — environmental significance and significant landscape.
South Gippsland rules regarding the significant landscape overlay states “a permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation” unless it is dead or to maintain fences.
Mr Patterson said in a statement “the information you have been provided is not consistent with the findings of the investigation undertaken by council”.