Damage done to marine plants at Scooter Farms in Maroochy River.
Damage done to marine plants at Scooter Farms in Maroochy River. Contributed

Coast company fined $29,000 tried to cover up damage

A COAST company has been fined more than $29,000 for destroying marine plants in an area of Indigenous significance, then trying to cover up the damage with 20 loads of soil.

Scooter Farms, at River Rd, Maroochy River, were charged with the environmental crimes which occurred over a 3-4 month period in early 2016.

Court documents sighted by the Sunshine Coast Daily said common reed and rusty sedge were initially damaged when building materials were placed over 160sq m of land adjoining Boggy Creek.

Then in a "misguided attempt" to cover up the damage, company director Scott Dwan ordered an employee to dump 20 loads of dirt over two days at the site.

A botanist confirmed the marine plants under the fill had been destroyed and there had been "no active rehabilitation of the offending area".

In a statement to the court, a cultural heritage consultant said multiple Indigenous artefacts had been picked up in the area.

Representatives of the Kabi Kabi First Nation people also told the court the damage had caused harm to the Maroochy River dream time story.

If Dwan made an application to permanently disturb 452sq m of marine plants it would have cost a total of $13,040.

Dwan had invited environmental officers to visit the site and inspect, but made threats towards one of them and didn't want him on his property.

He told them the building material he had covered with soil was just chipboard "which breaks down easily and makes good landfill".

Magistrate Ron Madsen concluded Dwan's actions were "deliberate and dishonest" and fined him $25,000 for the damage and ordered he pay $4230 in court costs.

Convictions were recorded.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district officer Russell Overton said the penalty highlighted the high level of protection placed on marine plants.    

"Protection applies to all marine plants regardless of whether they grow on privately or publicly-owned land.

"Marine plants are a fundamental part of fish habitat and a vital natural resource that help sustain fish for the future for commercial, traditional and recreational fishing.

"Disturbances can disrupt the estuarine food chain and lead to long term decline in fish production and general aquatic health."