Satellite detects illegal clearing

Stock image.
Stock image.

SATELLITE technology was instrumental in prosecuting a contractor who illegally cleared 16ha of native vegetation at a Gingin property.

Bunbury earthmoving contractor Ausmech Solutions was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay costs of $7,459 after the unauthorised clearing in 2016, which was detected using imagery obtained from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.

The person who engaged the contractor was also previously convicted and fined $30,000.

Since 2017, two polar-orbiting satellites have been capturing images over WA every five days, allowing the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) to rapidly detect and evaluate changes in vegetation cover.

Where clearing is detected, the information is checked against DWER’s clearing permit system to ensure it is authorised and has been undertaken within the specific area and limits set.

“Satellite imagery is vital in monitoring native vegetation clearing in a state as vast as Western Australia,” Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said.

“Since this technology came into place, clearing can be detected within days of it taking place, allowing DWER inspectors to engage with landholders early to minimise harm to the environment and to reduce unlawful clearing.

“The public should know these surveillance tools are in force to monitor our native vegetation in Western Australia and anyone breaking the law will be caught.”

Anyone who suspects illegal land clearing can report it to DWER’s Pollution Watch Hotline on 1300 784 782, by email to pollutionwatch@dwer.wa.gov.au, or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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