News

More alleged tree felling

By Liz Mellino

Shepparton man Joel Hoffman says he's "beyond frustrated" as at least 30 trees have been illegally cut down in the past three to four months near Reedy Swamp and wants something to be done about it.

Last month, The News reported of similar tree felling in Mooroopna but claims have now emerged on the other side of the river.

Mr Hoffman said he believed whoever was responsible had cut down the trees - some of which were believed to be more than 200 years old - for commercial use.

He said offenders used fallen tree branches and bark to cover the stumps.

“Clearly they're not being prosecuted because they keep coming back again and again with predictable patterns in their behaviour,” he said.

“They'll fell trees, divvy them up and camouflage them to try and hide their actions.

“This is a public park and people are coming here and taking timber; they're not being stopped.

“The most frustrating part is I can't get any help. These areas have become almost lawless there's also large piles of rubbish dumped in the parks.”

Mr Hoffman said he had witnessed the trees being cut down and he had taken photos and videos as well as recorded car registrations.

He said he first reported it to Parks Victoria along the Goulburn River four years ago and he had been threatened by some of the offenders.

Mr Hoffman said there were several other sites along the Goulburn where trees had been felled.

In an email supplied to The News,Mr Hoffman was told it could only be investigated by a minimum of two Park Victoria rangers, assisted by Victorian police.

The email said both services were "understaffed" and "resources stretched to the maximum".

“They've said to me they don't have enough staff to patrol these areas effectively,” Mr Hoffman said.

“You know when the rangers have come down because they tag the trees.

“There are areas closer to the swamp that have been tagged but at this small part there's nothing and I've reported this area.”

But Mr Hoffman stressed the lack of action was not the fault of the local Parks Victoria rangers.

He said it started with lack of funding provided to Parks Victoria.

Victorian Government funding to Parks Victoria in the 2018/19 budget was $70.6 million. In 2011/12 it was reportedly $122 million.

“I know the local rangers care about what's happening here,” Mr Hoffman said.

“What I've been told is there is only a handful (rangers) that cover this massive area all the way up to Barmah forest.

“If people were coming into town every night stealing thousands of dollars worth of public or private resources, there would be an outcry; this has been left to be destroyed.”

If an offender is caught and prosecuted, they face between $3300 and $8300 in fines, and in serious cases up to one year imprisonment.

Parks Victoria recently fined people $4000 for felling 40 trees at Tocumwal Regional Park.

The News contacted Parks Victoria for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.