Farm fence legal threat

July 18, 2017

Kevin Sloan is in a legal battle with Strathbogie Shire Council over the removal of trees to construct a boundary fence

Kevin Sloan is in a legal battle with Strathbogie Shire Council over the removal of trees to construct a boundary fence

Violet Town beef and sheep producer Kevin Sloan has called on Strathbogie Shire Council to come to the table and resolve their issues as the council threatens legal action over a boundary fence.

Mr Sloan, who operates his family’s 404ha property, removed and lopped a number of trees along Dookie-Violet Town Rd and Panters Rd in preparation for the construction of a boundary fence, before Strathbogie Shire Council ordered him to stop work.

Mr Sloan said he believed the work he had undertaken complied with the regulations and he had only taken action to clear his fenceline and ensure a safe working environment, including the trimming of trees that overhang the fenceline.

However, the council contends that on a visit to Mr Sloan’s property in March they noted 51 trees that had been either removed or lopped, a number it does not believe demonstrated the loss of trees was kept to a minimum.

‘‘We allege that approximately half of the native vegetation removed was not undertaken to the minimum extent necessary and a number of trees that were either removed or lopped could have been minimised or avoided completely to enable the construction of the boundary fence,’’ a letter to Mr Sloan states.

‘‘Council’s records indicate no planning approval has been granted for the removal of native vegetation.’’

After several weeks of attempts to resolve the issue Mr Sloan said the council had stopped responding.

‘‘Where’s the shire? They won’t talk to us, they won’t work with us and they won’t talk to the WorkCover consultant we’ve got working with us. They’re just totally ignoring everyone,’’ Mr Sloan said.

The council said the matter was now with its solicitors, yet Mr Sloan believes taking the matter to court will ‘‘achieve nothing’’.

‘‘Everyone has got a boundary fence somewhere,’’ he said.

‘‘I know farmers that are too worried to start their own fences because they’re concerned about the council.

‘‘I’ve had two phone calls offering money to fight the shire, but what’s the point? It’s a waste of money that the council could spend to grade a road somewhere.

‘‘We’ve said to them, just come and talk to us ... I just want to take the trees off the fence.’’

Mr Sloan said he had spoken with a VicRoads employee prior to undertaking work and was given verbal approval for the works on Dookie-Violet Town Rd, which VicRoads manages.

VicRoads said it had ‘‘no records of a formal request to undertake this tree removal’’.

‘‘VicRoads gives ultimate approval for removal and or works within road reserves in response to a Planning Permit referral or exemption from the local council,’’ VicRoads’ north-eastern regional director Nicki Kyriakou said.

The council’s solicitors have issued Mr Sloan with a show cause notice.

At the time of printing, the council had not responded to Country News’ requests for comment on the matter.

Mr Sloan said once the council ordered him to stop work on his fence he was informed that a contractor would visit his farm to clean up the trees.

‘‘Whilst the contractor was here he’s run over the barbed wire by the fence, shorted the electric fence out, cows got out and a calf got killed on the road,’’ he said.

Mr Sloan and WorkCover consultant Tony Farfor wrote to the council informing it of the incident and that it will seek compensation for the current market value of the calf, as well as damage to the fence and the land.

As a result of the damage to his electric fence, Mr Sloan said he was unable to put stock in the paddock for fear they would venture onto the road and cause an accident.

Mr Sloan said he was concerned the weather would turn cold and potentially leave his sheep and lambs without an appropriate location to shield them from the cold, because he could no longer use the paddock due to it having no fence.

Euroa Environmental Group member Shirley Saywell said while she understood that there was situations where trees needed to be removed or trimmed for fencing, she did not support the loss of trees where it could be avoided.

In instances where the removal of trees were required to construct a fence, Ms Saywell suggested farmers moved their fence a couple of metres further into the property.

‘‘We’ve worked with lots of farmers who have done fantastic work, we’ve helped put in place 250km of fencing and also protected vegetation ... there’s ways around the issue,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re pleased the council has acted and sent the message to farmers that there’s a better way to do it.’’

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