Land clearing linked to NSW farm killing

By Ava Benny-Morrison

The simmering tensions over land clearing have reached a fatal boiling point in northern NSW.

Elderly farmer Ian Robert Turnbull has been accused of the shooting death of environmental inspector Glen Turner on a property north of Moree, in Croppa Creek, on Tuesday afternoon.

Tamworth-based Mr Turner, a father of two, visited the 79-year-old Turnbull over alleged vegetation clearing.

Police arrived to find the body of the 51-year-old senior compliance officer about 5.40pm (AEST) and Turnbull was arrested five hours later at a nearby property and charged with murder.

Turnbull had past run-ins with the environment department over land clearing, including a case that reached the Land and Environment Court involving the alleged clearing of more than 3000 trees.

Moree Shire Plains mayor Katrina Humphries said the community had been embroiled in tensions over environmental issues ranging from coal seam gas to land clearing.

"I am not saying it flippantly and I mean it, I am not surprised this has happened," she told AAP.

"Because I know people have been pushed and pushed and pushed.

"This is their life and this is their livelihood."

Ecologist Phil Spark, who has worked in the Croppa Creek community, says some land holders knew they couldn't afford to lose another tree on the sparse landscape.

But others were clearing vegetation to take advantage of the rich agricultural soil and there was friction between groups.

"There is a lot of fear and threats," he said.

"Those that are wanting to dob them in and take action, they are intimidated by others.

"It's a very hostile environment."

Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce said farmers overwhelmingly hated native vegetation laws, which had created incredible animosity towards the government.

"This is not an isolated incident, this is just the worst of a range of incidents," he told AAP.

Mr Joyce said there was heat over the issue because people had their private property taken off them.

"People who owned a certain asset, this time trees, had it taken off them by the government without payment and it created animosity towards the government."

Turnbull appeared in Moree Local Court on Wednesday but did not apply for bail.

The case was adjourned to August 5.

The Office of Environment and Heritage said Mr Turner was one of their most experienced compliance officers.

"He was a respected and well-liked colleague and friend to many," chief executive Terry Bailey said.

"The loss of a colleague touches us all, even more so under such tragic circumstances."