Freed farmer to continue  campaign

Munglinup farmer Max Szulc has emerged from 15 months behind bars more determined than ever to fight for the rights of farmers to clear their land.

Mr Szulc was jailed in November 2011 for contempt of court after he ignored an order not to clear a portion of native vegetation on his Great Southern property.

It was the second time he had been sent to jail and his third time in court over a land-clearing dispute.

But after serving his time with hardened criminals in Hakea and Wooroloo prisons, Mr Szulc emerged this week with his resolve stronger than ever.

The 64-year-old was initially in court for unlawful land clearing and spent three months in jail in 2010 for continuing to clear land, which breached the court order.

In 2011, he was jailed for a second contempt of the court injunction. An appeal to have his conviction overturned was dismissed in the Supreme Court in July.

Mr Szulc does not regret his actions and said farmers needed more say in how they could manage their properties lawfully, while maximising their ability to be involved in agriculture and the supply of food.

"There are other people I'm representing, the hidden people out there," he said. "There's 1000 farmers in WA who've got regrowth that they'd like to deal with and they're not able to because of the interpretation of the clearing laws as they are now. I must admit there've been many times when I've felt quite tearful that I'm in jail for 15 months for preparing land to grow food."

Mr Szulc bought his farm in 1976. About one-third of the block had been cleared and he started further clearing, using the land for agriculture.

But a change in environmental protection regulations in 2004 brought in strict rules on clearing native vegetation on farm land. Farmers faced fines of up to $250,000 and criminal prosecution for land clearing.

WAFarmers and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association are lobbying for land-clearing law changes.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West