THE recent growth in the blueberry industry, especially in the Halfway Creek-Corindi area between Coffs Harbour and Grafton, has prompted authorities to remind landholders that unauthorised clearing of rural land could lead to prosecution.
The Office of Environment and Heritage acting regional manager north east, Toong Chin, said the blueberry industry was expanding rapidly and while it provides significant economic benefits to the area, landholders need to be aware of their obligations when clearing native vegetation.
"Several reports of unauthorised clearing of vegetation on properties in the Halfway Creek area are currently being investigated," Mr Chin said.
"Those investigations could culminate in regulatory action, including the issuing of directions to landholders to rehabilitate the illegally cleared areas."
"Clearing of native vegetation is permissible, provided it is undertaken in accordance with the Native Vegetation Act.
"The OEH is keen to see productive and sustainable use of the landscape and it is important people understand their legal obligations in relation to the clearing of native vegetation."
Land can be cleared for a number of reasons, including bushfire management and farm infrastructure.
Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority program manager Royce Bennett said remnant native vegetation could not be cleared except in accordance with a development consent or a Property Vegetation Plan granted under the Native Vegetation Act, unless the clearing is otherwise permitted under the Act.
"Clearing of native vegetation is a significant environmental issue that can cause salinity, weed invasion, soil erosion, soil structural decline, changes to the water table and loss of species," Mr Bennett said.
"Landholders who are unsure about whether the clearing they are planning is lawful should check with their local Catchment Management Authority."