Drivers warned: $1400 fine for costly act in Aussie national park

Australian motorists who went off the beaten path in a Queensland national park are being asked to please explain as authorities warn about risking a $1,400 fine for damaging natural habitats.

Letters have been sent to a number of drivers following an investigation by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) into a number of incidents which took place in the Pinnacles Reserve near Townsville.

Several drivers who accessed areas within the reserve ended up causing considerable harm to the environment and damage to the firebreak on the boundary of the area, with some vehicles becoming bogged and abandoned.

In one image shared by rangers, a Mitsubishi sporting a P-plate in the window can be seen left abandoned covered in mud and sitting in watery tracks.

Drivers doing the wrong thing like this could be slapped with a $1,437.00 fine.
Drivers doing the wrong thing like this could be slapped with a $1,437.00 fine. Source: QPWS

Senior Conservation Officer Craig Dunk said vehicle owners will need to explain their actions after soggy conditions coupled with the reckless actions of drivers led to significant environmental damage.

"Unfortunately for some of those drivers, they have become bogged to the axles and could not get their vehicles out during the recent period of heavy rainfall," he said.

"When rangers attended the scene, they found a vehicle which had attempted to tow another vehicle out and also became bogged to the axles.

"The drivers and their passengers had abandoned their vehicles in the reserve and walked out."

Ranger said some vehicles were left abandoned after causing damage in the reserve.
Ranger said some vehicles were left abandoned after causing damage in the reserve. Source: QPWS

Some adventurous Aussies seemingly caused serious disturbance to soil and vegetation with rangers coming across bog holes where vehicles had driven off the approved tracks in the reserve, in what proved to be a very costly mistake.

"Not only is this unsafe, but the vehicles can tear up ground cover, damage or kill trees and other vegetation, spread weeds and damage the natural and cultural values of the area," Dunk said.

According to the QPWS, the repairs to the firebreak are likely to cost in excess of $50,000.

Rangers are also warning about the national park being used by four-wheel driver or motorbike riders looking to race.

"Rangers will also not tolerate people using our protected areas as racetracks or places to drive recklessly," he said. "The safety of QPWS staff and visitors to our protected area is our number one priority."

Queenslanders, and all Australians, are urged to check the rules before entering a National Park, State Forest or any other public land. Not doing so could prove expensive.

The maximum penalty for interfering with 'Forest Products' under the state's Forestry Act 1959 is up to $143,750 for a first offence and up to $431,250 for any subsequent offences. On the spot Penalty Infringement Notices of $1,437.00 can also be issued by rangers.

As well as disturbing soil, cutting down trees, driving through the bush rather than on approved tracks, and collecting firewood are all considered unlawful acts.

Queensland rangers conduct patrols and use overt and covert cameras and drone technology for compliance purposes.

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