By Avani Dias
A developer who cleared a block of land in Darwin’s north, which at the time was alleged to be a “clear breach” of arranging procedure, will not be prosecuted.
In February, Darwin businessman Nick Bjelica lodged an application to have the block on Boulter Road in Berrimah rezoned from Community Purposes to Numerous Residential Dwelling.
Two months later, four of the seven hectares of native vegetation on the block of land had been cleared, sparking a furious reaction from neighborhood groups.
Then lands and arranging minister Peter Chandler alleged the act was a “clear breach” of government procedure.
- Darwin businessman Nick Bjelica lodges application to have block rezoned
- Block cleared of vegetation in April, 2014 sparking outcry
- Then arranging minister alleges clearing was a “clear breach” of preparing process
- Existing Minister announces there will not be a prosecution
“I cannot ask the public to have faith in the Government’s organizing processes if they’re not enforced when there has been a clear breach,” Mr Chandler told News Corp.
“We want to see sustainable improvement, that is why we’re looking at this area’s flood and drainage issues to see what improvement is suitable … this guy has just jumped the gun.”
But the Government will not be proceeding with a prosecution.
“The Development Consent Authority (DCA) has concluded its investigation into the matter and has advised that it will not be proceeding with prosecution,” a spokeswoman for current Planning Minister Dave Tollner stated today.
She mentioned that “regrettably, even with the assistance of the NT Police, the DCA was unable to prepare a viable case against the primary parties responsible” for what she alleged was “the illegal clearing” of the block.
“The current enforcement action has brought to light a quantity of shortcomings in the investigatory provisions (of the Preparing Act),” Mr Tollner’s spokesperson said.
“For this cause the Minister has directed the Department of Lands, Preparing and the Atmosphere to undertake a overview of the present provisions of the act with a view to escalating the department’s investigatory and enforcement powers.”
Mr Tollner’s spokeswoman mentioned that would be carried out to cease alleged “equivalent illegal clearing activities” from happening “in the future”.
Each the DCA, which is headed by former Nation Liberals chief minister Denis Burke, and Mr Tollner “take the situation of illegal clearing of land really seriously”, the spokesperson stated.
“As a result advice was sought from the solicitor for the Northern Territory on whether there have been any extra avenues to pursue the matter in light of the proof.”
Mr Tollner’s office stated the evaluation would assist “increase Government’s capability to effectively undertake comparable prosecution actions in the future”.
There was, Mr Tollner stated, “no connection amongst the land clearing and the application to rezone the land”.
MD zoning allows for development two storeys above ground level.
Environmental group outraged
The Speedy Creek Landcare Group stated it was dismayed by the selection and claimed there was adequate proof to prosecute the organization that did the clearing function.
“We had been shocked… there is clear evidence that the organization did carry out the clearing,” the group’s secretary Lesley Alford stated.
That contractor, Litchfield Green Waste Recyclers, confirmed they did clear the block, but did so below instruction from one more organization, Halikos, which said it was neither the owner nor the developer of the block.
Ms Alford mentioned the Government and DCA’s choice not to prosecute showed a weakness in legislation.
She asked how could the neighborhood have faith in the arranging process if it was not going to be implemented when what she described as “a clear breach” occurred.
“The wetland that’s on this block is part of the Marrara wetlands which type the upper Fast Creek catchment,” Ms Alford stated.
“It’s a actually critical element of the Rapid Creek program, for the ecology of the program and for the hydrology of Speedy Creek.
“But there’s also the principle of the Government enforcing its own arranging act and its personal organizing scheme.”
Bjelica: ‘I wasn’t aware the land was getting cleared’
Mr Bjelica told the ABC he was not conscious that the land was being cleared.
“I was away in Katherine doing organization at the time,” he mentioned.
“I don’t go there very typically I was told by a person else that the land had been cleared.”
Shortfalls in organizing scheme identified in September
A committee formed to supply tips to Government on flood mitigation in the higher Darwin area discovered “preparing decisions requiring stormwater assessment are fragmented and responsibilities are ambiguous”.
The committee, which delivered its report to Government in September, advised the “definition of flooding within the NT Preparing Scheme is amended to incorporate stormwater flooding to the effect that the owner or occupier of land maintains the pre-improvement peak flow prices within a catchment”.
It identified there was “no underlying legislation that bargains directly with stormwater management”.
“There is no overarching understanding at the organizing level of the principles and objectives of stormwater management to be followed in the Northern Territory,” the committee mentioned.
In October, Mr Tollner announced the Government would be “implementing the measures” from the committee’s suggestions.
Public feedback on the improvement application at Boulter Road is open till December 18, 2015 and can be accessed on the Department of Lands and Arranging web site.
Subjects: environmental-policy, land-clearing, government-and-politics, berrimah-0828