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Clarence Valley Council has been convicted by the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales of causing harm to a tree that it knew was an Aboriginal object protected by law.
In May 2016, employees of Clarence Valley Council cut down the tree as part of a stump grinding program and removed it from its location on the corner of Breimba and Dovedale Streets in Grafton.
Clarence Valley Council was aware that the tree was culturally significant to the local Gumbaynggirr community as it had been fined by the Office of Environment and Heritage for lopping off the crown of the tree in 2013.
The tree was significant because the tree served as a rich source of history for the local community. Local Aboriginal people utilised the tree to create tools for everyday life, cutting into the bark many years ago, leaving distinct scars. The bark is likely to have been used to build a canoe or to make a shield. The tree could also have been used for other traditional purposes and marked to direct people to the area now known as Fisher Park in Grafton.
Indigenous and non-indigenous people used to visit the tree on cultural excursions, prior to it being removed.
Clarence Valley Council was prosecuted by the Office of Environment and Heritage. It pleaded guilty to the charge and has been ordered to pay a monetary penalty of $300,000, and the costs of the prosecution of $48,000. Clarence Valley Council was ordered to pay the monetary penalty to the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council to be applied to specified projects to promote and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage in the Grafton area. Clarence Valley Council was ordered to publicise and notify specified persons about the offence, its consequences and the sentencing orders. Clarence Valley Council was ordered to establish and conduct training courses for its staff on Aboriginal cultural heritage and due diligence and compliance with the law for preventing harm to Aboriginal objects.
The sentencing remarks can be found on the Caselaw website at www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au under Chief Executive, Office of Environment and Heritage v Clarence Valley Council  NSWLEC 205.
This notice was placed by order of the Land and Environment Court of NSW and was paid for by Clarence Valley Council.