Court determines there is a cost to protecting the marine environment

17 March 2020

Everyone must do their bit to protect the marine environment or pay the price NSW Maritime A/ Executive Director Alex Barrell said following the successful prosecution this week of a NSW boat owner.

The reminder came after 56-year-old Kristoffer Mitchell was fined $4500 and $38,454 in costs for failing to remove a boat he owned from Camden Haven Inlet. The boat was illegally moored in May last year at the Laurieton Fisherman's Co-Operative and sank on the mooring three months later.

Mitchell has a long history of keeping boats in a poor condition and attempting to sell them online.

Over six months this year, he bought 14 vessels, two of which sank and a further six were seized by the NSW Government to prevent them sinking or causing pollution hazards.

"Protecting our marine environment is a job for us all," Mr Barrell said.

"Boat owners must act as quickly as practicable to remove boats or other objects which sink in NSW waters under requirements in both the Marine Safety Act 1998 and the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act 1997.

"Those who repeatedly do the wrong thing and refuse to follow legislation which exists to protect our unique marine environment will feel the full force of the law."

On 16 May last year Mitchell was contacted by the local Transport for NSW Boating Safety Officer and asked to move the 15.7 metre steel hulled boat which was deemed to be in such poor condition it was likely to sink and cause a pollution incident.

On 18 June after no action by Mitchell, Transport for NSW arranged for an accredited marine surveyor to carry out an inspection of the vessel which found the vessel was unseaworthy with advanced rust in the deck, cabin, cockpit and hull.

Mitchell was provided with seven-day and 14-day official notices to remove the boat from the waterway, neither of which was followed.

On Friday 16 August the boat sank on the mooring.

Mitchell initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea at the end of last week.

Magistrate Georgina Darcy of Port Macquarie Local Court found Mitchell failed to comply with a Prevention Notice under the POEO Act which required him to remove the vessel from the water and noted rust and other materials on the vessel presented a serious risk to the environment. She also noted he had a record for similar offences.

She imposed a fine of $4500 and ordered Mitchell to repay the $38,454.35 spent by Transport for NSW in the removal and salvage of the vessel from the water.

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