'Influencers' fined $15,500 over illegal joyride

'Strong action' is warned to result from activities like this.

Two drivers on an off-road joyride through a national park have had an expensive day out after copping a hefty fine totalling $15,500.

Despite there being signs advising against using vehicles, the duo posted a video of themselves driving through two protected areas north west of the Gold Coast.

Having been viewed more than 6,600 times, the hour-long video titled ‘4X4 session goes bad’ eventually made its way to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES).

A photo from a dune buggy one man was driving through Plunkett Conservation Park and Wickham Timber Reserve, as well as a green four-wheel drive in front with another man inside.
Two men have been fined a total of $15,500 for damaging environmentally and culturally significant areas near the Gold Coast. Source: Queensland DES

"On 27 November 2021, the men filmed themselves driving separate vehicles, a green four-wheel drive and a dune buggy, through Plunkett Conservation Park and Wickham Timber Reserve," DES said in a statement, describing the duo as "influencers".

"The pair, in their vehicles, crushed small trees, drove up rock formations and disturbed the culturally significant ground."

Illegal activity results in 'strong action'

The video then prompted an investigation, which led to both being charged in September 2022 with two counts of interfering with a natural or cultural resource of a protected area without authority and one count of interfering with forest products on a timber reserve without authority.

After pleading guilty to all charges, they were sentenced in Beenleigh Magistrates Court on Wednesday and fined $7,000 each, as well as ordered to pay $750 each in costs.

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.

A photo of damage to trees that the man inside of the green four-wheel-drive was making.
Damaged trees and tyre marks were observed to be left on rock formations thanks to the duo's actions. Source: Queensland DES

"This outcome serves as an important reminder to always obey signage and road rules when entering national parks, conservation parks, State forests and timber reserves," the statement from DES read.

"Rangers monitor social media for illegal activity in protected areas and will take strong action against those who disobey the rules or damage our protected areas and forests."

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