Jarrod McCracken walks towards the court house in Proserpine on Monday.
Jarrod McCracken walks towards the court house in Proserpine on Monday.

Huge fine looms for McCracken

FORMER rugby league star Jarrod McCracken faces a fine of more than $200,000 for charges relating to the development of his Clarke's Cove property after submissions were made on his penalty in Proserpine Magistrates' Court on Monday.

After a court sitting of just over two hours Magistrate Athol Kennedy reserved his decision until some time in late June, but the court heard that McCracken had come to a prior agreement with prosecution that the penalty be in the region of $200,000.

Although it is still for Mr Kennedy to make the final decision on penalty, the magistrate indicated that it would be unusual for him to go far outside prosecution's submission, particularly as it was made with McCracken's agreement.

In summarising the facts of the case, Mr Devlin said that McCracken had “organised, authorised and supervised” the clearing of about 18 hectares of trees and conducted earthworks on part of that land, without a single approval.

Representing himself, McCracken said that before he was sentenced, he wanted the opportunity to “set the ledger straight”.

McCracken told the court that he had been pursued so vigorously by Council and the judicial system because his profile had “backed them into a corner”.

“The government has spent one million dollars trying to build a case against me,” McCracken said.

“The Council has spent $600,000 of ratepayers' money.

“They've sent out botanists, rangers and had boats in the water [and there is] not one piece of evidence any environmental damage has been done.”

McCracken said that the case had been sensationalised and distorted because of the high amount of media attention that it had generated.

The court heard McCracken had contracted the Bastemeyer Group, a construction company specialising in excavation, to develop part of the 387 hectare block purchased by Michelle McCracken, Jarrod's wife.

The property is adjacent to pristine coastline about 18 kilometres north of Airlie Beach and was bought on May 4, 2007.

Over the following three months a council road was widened and realigned, a headland was cleared for a jetty, a rock wall was erected on the coastline, earthworks were carried out on the beach to reshape a dune, a drain was dug in a southerly direction toward the ocean, vegetation was cleared for a horse paddock and a hill was cut down for a house pad – all without any council notification.

The court heard that much of that development had taken place within the habitat of rare or endangered species, among them the Proserpine Rock Wallaby, and that many of the trees that had been knocked down were rare and significant Whitsunday Bottle Trees.

Not only was some of the land McCracken developed gazetted national park, but it was also considered of cultural significance to the traditional owners of the land – the Gia people.

The court heard that the development went on without disruption until a fisherman reported the land clearing to the Whitsunday Regional Council.

The fisherman's report led to an inspection and then an order for the cessation of works from council, which was sent to Michelle McCracken on August 17, 2007.

However, that letter was apparently ignored as works continued on the property, finally forcing council to apply for an interim court order restraining the McCracken's from continuing to develop the land, which was made on August 24, 2007.

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