Resident Hit With Massive Fine After Clearing National Park Land for Illegal Building Construction

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Jul 10, 2024

All around the world, countries spend extensive amounts of money and energy on ensuring that their natural landscapes are kept wild and beautiful, for residents, wildlife, biodiversity, and the continued protection of planet Earth.

In Australia, they are extremely aware of how important their natural ecosystems are, and therefore, have several national parks to protect them. So when one man cleared nearly eight acres of land in a national park, felling dozens of trees and putting the wildlife in jeopardy, he certainly paid the price.

The Beautiful Koonyum Range, New South Wales in Australia

The gorgeous Koonyum Range is a mountain range found in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales in eastern Australia.

A photograph of a waterfall on the top of a mountain within the Koonyum Range in NSW, Australia

Source: @Mac Maderski/Facebook

While the entire area is considered a natural national treasure, visitors flock every year to see the majestic Mount Jerusalem National Park located along the mountain range.

Mount Jerusalem National Park

Just an hour drive from the famous Byron Bay, Mount Jerusalem National Park is undeniably beautiful. With miles upon miles of walking tracks, waterfalls, natural creeks, and numerous species of unique animals, there is truly something for everyone.

A beautiful waterfall and natural pool in Mount Jerusalem National Park in NSW, Australia


Because of the wide variety of flora and fauna living in the park, Australia’s national parks system takes exceptionally good care of Mount Jerusalem, ensuring that it stays wild, but also safe for residents and tourists alike.

Unnamed Australian Man Destroyed Eight Acres of Mount Jerusalem National Park

In January 2024, one Australian man who has chosen to remain anonymous (for obvious reasons) made the strange and illegal decision to clear a portion of the national park.

A faceless man is cutting down a tree with a chainsaw

Source: Freepik

According to a report by The Echo, the man cut down around eight acres of vegetation and built a structure for his own use within the park. Both of which are completely illegal.

Australian Man Who Cleared a National Park Had His Day in Court

The Australian news outlet explained that the man is a resident of the Koonyum Range who apparently failed to check his property boundary against that of the park’s before starting clearing the land.

A close-up black and white photograph of a judge’s gavel

Source: Freepik

However, once he was charged, the judge at the Mullumbimby Local Court had little sympathy for the man’s alleged mistake. Instead, after charging the man, the judge sentenced him with an extremely hefty fine.

Australian Man Fined $14,600 for His “Mistake”

The Australian man was convicted of violating the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1974 and the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation of 2019.

A faceless person hands over hundreds of dollars in cash to another person

Source: Freepik

For these crimes, he received a $22,000 AUD ($14,600) fine, as well as two years of community correction orders, which are essentially mandates to perform hundreds of hours of community service as dictated by the court.


Australia’s National Park’s Service Comments on the Seriousness of the Offense

In response to the event, Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service spoke out in the hopes of explaining to the community and visitors why the clearing of this land was so detrimental to the park.

A group photograph of several of Australia’s park rangers in uniform

Source: Department for Environment and Water

The NSW Area Manager, Jenny Atkins, explained, “This sends a strong and very clear message to people that before you clear land or cut down any trees or do any building work, even on your property, you should know where the property boundaries are.”


Protecting Australia’s Wildlife

Atkins continued, “The felling of forest oaks impacts directly on the habitat and food resources of the glossy black cockatoo, a listed vulnerable species known to occur in the area.”

A photograph of two Australia black cockatoo sitting on a branch in a tree

Source: David Cook/

And the endangered black cockatoo is just one of the many highly valued species that call the Mount Jerusalem National Park home. Albert’s lyrebird and the red-legged pademelon also live there, as well as eastern water dragons, the sugar glider, and many more.


Cutting Down Trees Is Exceptionally Detrimental to the Environment

In addition to threatening the lives of the many endangered and protected species in the park, the man’s decision to cut down dozens of trees was also incredibly detrimental to the natural ecosystem and the planet as a whole.

An aerial photograph of a forest with a small cutout showing sky and the text “CO2”

Source: Freepik

Deforestation is one of the leading causes of climate change and its consequences, including rising air and water temperatures. Trees are absolutely necessary for protecting the atmosphere from the excess carbon dioxide the human race is creating, and without them, or even with fewer of them, we will be in a great deal of trouble sooner than later.


Trees Are Highly Valued in Australia

Although trees are extremely important for the health of the planet all over the world, they are especially vital on the continent of Australia. Only 16% of the giant country is covered by trees, and while that’s still more than 300 million acres of trees, every tree truly does count.

The bush in Australia with several trees spotting the desert

Source: Depositphotos

As Atkins explained, “Trees are highly valued in the Byron Shire and their removal, without permission, is not tolerated by NPWS, or the broader community.”


Those Who Live in Rural Areas Should Be Cautious Before Changing the Natural Landscape

This story is unquestionably a warning to people all around the world: If you destroy a natural protected landscape, you will face the consequences and they will likely be very expensive.

A young man with glasses is shown making a phone call

Source: Freepik

Atkins warned all readers: “You should always check with the local council to see what is allowed and what is not.”


There Are Many More Examples of People Paying the Price for Destroying the Natural World

Unfortunately, this story is far from unique. There are several examples of people all around the world destroying the natural landscape around them for personal gain.

The area of the River Lugg where John Price dredged the river and cut down all the riverbank devastation


In fact, one millionaire from the UK decided to dredge a river running along his property, decimating the river’s natural composition and putting several wildlife species and even his neighbors at risk.


The Ancient and Beautiful River Lugg

The River Lugg famously flows for 63 miles through both England and Wales. In fact, for more than 1,000 years, it has been a vital part of the local ecological system.

A photograph of the River Lugg in England

Source: Wikipedia

The long and ancient river provides homes for a variety of wildlife, including crayfish, trout, salmon, otters, and dozens of species of birds.


The Destruction of the River Lugg

A resident of Herefordshire, England, John Price, has lived along the side of the River Lugg for years. But in 2020, he decided to take it upon himself to destroy over a mile and a half of the beloved landscape.

A photograph of a tree stump surrounded by cut down trees

Source: Freepik

Price used heavy machinery to dredge the river bed, remove the natural gravel, and clear trees and vegetation along his side of the river bank.


Price Claimed He Was Helping Protect the Land

Of course, Price was caught for his mass destruction by the UK Environment Agency.

A UK Environment Agency officer in high-vis looks over a flooding river

Source: @EnvAgency/X

And when questioned, he claimed that he was trying to protect his own land as well as his neighbors from flooding.


The "Work" Price Did on the River Would Never Have Prevented Flooding

However, the experts at the UK Internment agency reported that what Price did to the river could never have been considered helpful.

A flooded residential street showing mailboxes almost underwater

Source: Freepik

By removing the vegetation and the natural forming gravel on the river bed, he actually made his and the other nearby properties more susceptible to flooding.


Getting Caught Means Going to Court

Like the man in Australia, when Price was caught, the local authorities took him to court for violating the nation’s environmental protection laws.

An inside look at the interior of a courtroom where the judge sits.

Source: Zachary Caraway/Pexels

Fortunately, they had caught Price in the act of destroying the River Lugg, so they had plenty of photographs to prove his guilt.


The River Lugg Will Take Years to Return to Normal

The UK Environment agency argued in court that “It is predicted it will take decades to re-establish mature trees to provide the stability, cover and shade to restore the diversity of the river.”

An otter eating a fish in a river

Source: Freepik

They continued, “Fish, plants, native crayfish, and birds may take years to make a gradual return to previous populations.”


Paying the Price for Destroying the Planet

Once again, like his Australian counterpart, Price was found guilty. But his sentencing was far worse than the man’s in Australia.

Several US $100 bills on a judge’s gavel

Source: Adobe Stock

The judge ordered Price to pay a whopping £655,000 ($837,000) for restoration work and £600,000 ($766,700) in prosecution costs. He was also sentenced to one year in prison and was banned from acting as a company director for three years.


Being a Multi-Millionaire Has Its Perks

However, in the end, Price only ended up serving 11 weeks of his prison sentence.

A businessman smiles as he lays in a giant pile of cash

Source: Adobe Stock

And because Price is reportedly worth more than $25 million, the nearly $1 million fine certainly didn’t ruin his life.


Price Didn't Learn His Lesson the First Time

While jail time and a $1 million fine would likely make anyone in the world think twice before ever cutting down another tree, it seems Price didn’t learn his lesson the first time around.

A man using a chainsaw to cut down trees

Source: Freepik

Shortly after being released from prison, he went right back out there and cut down another group of trees along the edge of the River Lugg.


Paying the Price... Again

The second offense was less egregious than the first, so Price only had to pay £2,060 ($2,632) that time.

A set of hands gives hundreds of dollars in cash to another hand

Source: Freepik

But this story, like the others, really isn’t about the money. It’s about the blatant destruction of the natural world for personal gain.


Devastating Destruction in England

Emma Johnson, the area manager from Natural England said in a statement, “The River Lugg is one of the most iconic rivers in the UK, and to see this wanton destruction take place was devastating.”

The logo for the government agency Natural England in the United Kingdom

Natural England

And the chief operating officer at Natural England also noted, “The decimation of this section of the River Lugg has been devastating to the local environment and to local people, destroying the habitats of iconic wildlife such as otters, kingfisher and salmon. It was heartbreaking to see this beautiful riverside illegally damaged.”


Keeping Our Planet Safe and Beautiful for Generations to Come

Even if you’re not necessarily worried about being caught or even if the land you want to change isn’t protected by the government, you should still be extremely aware of how your decisions will affect the planet as a whole.

A scenic photograph of Mount Jerusalem National Park in NSW Australia

Source: Full Gamut

Sometimes, it feels as though there is little we can do to stop climate change from happening, but one simple and surefire way to protect the planet is to leave it as it is. Let the natural and wild world stay that way, and it will continue to function as it should.