By Simon Breheny
Cross post under IPA copyright
Peter Swift is a Western Australian farmer who takes good care of his land and describes himself as a conservationist. He even spent his own money fencing off a large area of his land and planting vegetation to support an endangered species of cockatoo.
But for the past three years, Peter has been hauled through the courts by the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Environment Regulation) over claims that he cleared native vegetation from his land. Peter has always maintained his innocence and even provided aerial photographs showing that any land clearing had taken place before he purchased the property.
And last week he finally won. But his victory is soured by the fact that he now finds himself $360,000 out of pocket – not to mention physically and mentally exhausted.
Peter’s case highlights the damage that native vegetation legislation inflicts on farmers. Instead of respecting property rights and putting a regime in place that achieves positive environmental outcomes, native vegetation laws punish rural landholders and fail to achieve conservation gains.
It also demonstrates how uncompromising environment department bureaucrats have become in the pursuit of
Peter was right to stand up to thugs in the department and the result achieved in court is a good one. But these laws are still on the books despite their deep flaws and as long as they remain the threat to the livelihoods of farmers across the state looms as a very real possibility.
The Western Australian government must repeal its native vegetation laws to put an end to the injustice that this regime creates and to restore property rights to rural and regional landowners.
UPDATE: Peter Swift has launched a campaign to defend rural property rights here.
First published at IPA Freedom watch