FINE: Phillip Hunt (white shirt) was fined $20,000 for killing protected marine plants. He stands with Roger Saunders (right) outside court in 2017.
FINE: Phillip Hunt (white shirt) was fined $20,000 for killing protected marine plants. He stands with Roger Saunders (right) outside court in 2017. Ross Irby

Bundy businessman cops $20k fine for marine poisoning

BUNDABERG businessman Phillip John Hunt says he just wants to keep his little "part of Australia clean".

And it seems he'll do it even if it's not his own property, and what he "cleans up" is a protected marine plant species.

Hunt pleaded not guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court yesterday to destroying, burning and poisoning protected marine plants, including grey mangroves, at his North Bundaberg property between June 2017 and January last year.

Representing himself, Hunt, 57, said he was just trying to do his part to keep the property tidy, claiming flood debris and even drug paraphernalia often washed up on the banks of the Burnett River near his house.

Hunt said he had been worried about weeds growing "20 feet high" to justify spraying herbicides near marine plants.

Magistrate Terry Duroux examined photographic and video evidence given by Department of Environment and Science officers and principal botanist Ralph Dowling.

Mr Dowling said the weeds Hunt claimed to be spraying couldn't grow along the river.

Hunt asked Mr Dowling how protected the common reed, one of the marine plants that had died, could be "with a name like that".

Mr Dowling said the word "common" was used because it was widespread.

Images showed Hunt on the property spraying liquid on the plants - and on a separate date was pictured "stockpiling" wood. He later stood near a freshly lit fire he claimed not to have lit.

Hunt claimed the branches were from a eucalyptus tree.

Hunt denied he had done anything wrong, and presented a picture of a barrel drum filled with "what I assume is poison" leaking out on the property.

But Mr Duroux said there were too many holes in Hunt's story, and referred to body camera footage taken when Hunt received a warning from DES officers.

"When you listen to the body footage he admits he sprayed herbicide ... (the evidence) is overwhelming (in regards) to who sprayed the vegetation, it was Mr Hunt," Mr Duroux said.

"I believe some of the evidence put to me by Mr Hunt today is nothing short of recent invention.

"I do accept he was trying to keep things clean and do his variation of what he thinks is right thing."

Hunt was fined $20,000 and $3585.75 in expenses.



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