Vanessa Niwa and Nathan White outside court after Nathan was fined over a fire. Photo Ross Irby / The Observer
Vanessa Niwa and Nathan White outside court after Nathan was fined over a fire. Photo Ross Irby / The Observer Ross Irby

Barney couple done for illegal burn off, claim snake hazard

BARNEY Point couple Nathan White and Vanessa Niwa despaired at the overgrowth of rubbish vegetation on State land adjoining their home.

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White even phoned the Gladstone council and repeatedly tried to phone a State government department/representative to get someone to burn it off as he strongly believed it posed a fire risk to their Sutton St home.

In one call he claims to have been "on hold for two hours", defeated, he gave up.

Frustrated, White, 42, cleared the rubbish cotton wood trees, created a fire break and as the couple stood by with garden hoses he lit it.

But his can-do attitude landed White a charge of lighting an unauthorised fire without a permit. He pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court.

WATCH: Barney Point resident said overgrowth was a snake and fire hazard

Barney Point couple cops fine for illegal burn off: Barney Point resident Nathan White was frustrated when council didn't respond to his concerns about overgrowth.
Barney Point couple cops fine for illegal burn off: Barney Point resident Nathan White was frustrated when council didn't respond to his concerns about overgrowth.

Police prosecutor Gavin Reece said a passing police patrol in Barney Point observed lots of white smoke and the scrub fire behind a house "which was burning rapidly" at 1pm on March 18. Fire and Rescue were called to attend.

"He says he started the fire to burn off scrub but had no permission. He was unaware he had to obtain such authorisation," Mr Reece said.

However, in the courtroom White told magistrate Mark Morrow he knew what he was doing and it involved only a 5sq m pile of rubbish, "the size of the table there" (pointing at the court bench).

"It wasn't a scrub fire. I'd spent two weeks clearing it away and piled it all up," White said.

"You need to get a permit, even I knew that. It's not a rural property, it's actually State land."

Mr Morrow told him he was not allowed to burn someone else's property.

"I've tried several times to get it cleared," White said.

"My neighbour has lived there 30 years and not been able to get the State to clear it.

Mr Morrow warned White that there was a danger in taking such action upon himself, a potential maximum penalty of six months jail.

"Have you spoken to your local member (Glenn Butcher)," Mr Morrow enquired.

"I spent two hours on hold then I gave up," he said.

Mr Morrow told him there were other ways to deal with it instead of taking it into his own hands.

"If you are not getting anywhere with a government department go and see if your local member can resolve the issue," Mr Morrow said.

"Get all your neighbours together and see what you can do before you go lighting fires."

Noting White had taken precautions and it was not a big fire, Mr Morrow fined him $250.