BAYSIDE Council has criticised a $250 court fine imposed on an illegal Beaumaris tree chopper as “outrageously” lenient.
At Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday, Matthew Egan pleaded guilty to removing a 40-year-old flowering gum tree from his Balcombe Rd property last year.
He was ordered to donate $250 to a court fund, pay $40 in council costs and given a good behaviour bond for a year. No conviction was recorded.
Outside court, Bayside Mayor Andrew McLorinan said the penalty imposed was inadequate and sent the wrong message to the community.
“The community should be advised that the council is committed to tree protection and tree canopy retention, and will rigorously investigate and enforce the tree protection laws and investigate and prosecute all illegal tree removals,” Cr McLorinan said.
“We are seeking legal advice on our right of appeal in this case.”
In court, Bayside Council prosecutor Pat Dunne said Egan was caught out by an inspection of his property last August.
Egan had applied for a permit to cut down the 15m tree in May, but was formally refused in July.
Magistrate Paul Smith said even though Egan may have been told by real estate agents it was “no problem” to remove the tree, he was “undoubtedly” informed by the council that it had to stay.
Mr Smith said the fine was “modest” because no infringement notice was issued by the council and others had ill-advised Egan.