Record fine for illegal waste dumper

Published 3:00pm 28 February 2023

Record fine for illegal waste dumper
Words by Jodie Powell

A 67-year-old Banksia Beach man has been fined $35,000 and convicted of illegally dumping building waste at Narangba.

The penalty is the highest in the state for prosecutions under Section 104 of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act.

Jan Szczodruch appeared in the Caboolture Magistrates Court today charged with breaching the Act after a report of a large amount of waste dumped at 41 Ridge Pde, Narangba was made to Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Szczodruch, who pleaded not guilty, was accused of leaving more than 21,000 litres – approximately 20-30 tonnes – of rubbish on the vacant block in the midst of a housing development on October 29, 2021.

Throughout the trial Szczodruch continued to assert he had not left waste at 41 Ridge Pde, but at a different block, and the material was not dumped, but rather “stockpiled” while awaiting collection.

“Talking about Lot 312 (also known as 41 Ridge Pde, Narangba), I have never been on Lot 312, I was on Lot 314,” Szczodruch said.

‘Standard practice’

He told the court temporarily leaving material on vacant blocks in the housing estate, which is under construction, was standard practice and permission was often not sought because soil and building debris were usually moved quickly.

But Szczodruch said that in October, 2021, several weeks of rain delayed removal.

He called no witnesses, but offered Magistrate James Blanch letters giving consent to land use dated October 19, 2022 – almost a year after the offence was committed – attesting to his version of events.

Mr Blanch initially refused to accept the documents, saying “they’re not witnesses, they’re letters”, but later agreed to read them

Four witnesses

Moreton Bay Regional Council Brief Management and Prosecutions Co-ordinator Jane Dillon told the court an eyewitness alerted authorities to the dumping, having photographed the debris and noting the registration of the vehicle in question.

The white Isuzu tip-truck was later found to belong to Szczodruch.

Ms Dillon called four witnesses – property owner Richard Rowles, who testified via phone that he had not given permission for waste to be dumped on his block; Fortitude Homes construction manager Geoff Wearne, who said he had not directed Szczodruch to dump the rubbish; and two Moreton Bay Regional Council officers.

She said the Moreton Bay Region was of "significant environmental value" and home to vulnerable species and urged Mr Blanch to make an example of Szczodruch to deter other operators.

Shaun Moore from Moreton Bay Regional Council said he received an email from the State Department of Environment and Science outlining the illegal dumping at 41 Ridge Pde, Narangba, including photos taken through the eyewitness’s dining room window.

Thorough investigation

Mr Moore tasked Moreton Bay Regional Council investigation officer Timothy Bosnjak with looking into the matter.

Mr Bosnjak, who has a Diploma of Investigation from the NSW Environment Protection Authority, said he had asked Szczodruch whether he had been told by supervisors to dump waste on the lot in question.

“The defendant responded ‘not exactly, but we have soil there, we didn’t want to move it yet’,” Mr Bosnjak said.

Szczodruch pleaded with Mr Blanch to find him not guilty, saying he was simply doing his job.

“Your honour I can only say this is my job to do, I was working.

|“You can’t prosecute me for Lot 41 when I was never there – I didn’t go into the bush, I didn’t do a crime, I was working.|

“I have lost already four days of work and my bosses are already upset and I might lose my job.”

Disregard for environment

Magistrate James Blanch was scathing in his summation of Szczodruch’s conduct – both in court and in committing the offence.

“Your complete and abject refusal to believe that you have done anything wrong and your major concern seems to be that you have lost some work time.

|“Your absolute disregard to the environment and the necessity to pay for any waste (disposal), that you have simply bypassed by stockpiling on other vacant lots – a conviction is to be recorded.”|

A warning for all

Mayor Peter Flannery is pleased the court backed Council’s crackdown on illegal dumping.

“The $35,000 fine handed down today is the highest ever in Queensland for prosecutions under s104 of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act,” he said.

“In addition to the $35,000 fine, the Court ordered the defendant to pay $1929 for the cost of Council’s prosecution and investigation, and a conviction was recorded.

“Let it serve as a warning to those people thinking of doing the wrong thing, that we have mobile CCTV units and staff dedicated to ensuring criminals are held responsible for their actions.

“Today’s successful prosecution is a major win for Council’s customer response and local laws teams, and I want to publicly applaud their professionalism in gathering all the necessary evidence in difficult circumstances to prove the culprit’s guilt.

|“Illegal dumping isn’t just unsightly, it’s environmentally damaging, presents a serious public safety risk and can even be a biohazard or bushfire risk.”|

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