Webster cleared of poisoning trees

A FORMER mayoral candidate accused by council of trying to poison trees on the Hervey Bay Esplanade was yesterday cleared of the crime on the basis of insufficient evidence.

Peter Francis Webster, who ran for mayor of the North Burnett region in the 2008 council elections, appeared in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court charged with interfering with or destroying plants in a park or reserve.

Mr Webster pleaded not guilty to sprinkling the herbicide tebuthiuron on a 100-metre stretch of land on the Esplanade at Pt Vernon.

His next-door neighbour Gaye Ah Quay, a former Fraser Coast Council compliance officer, said she witnessed Mr Webster sprinkling pellets on the foreshore at dusk on October 26, 2010.

She made a complaint to council, who investigated the matter along with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and a private investigator.

The court heard council workers examined and photographed the scene, where they found the white pellets spanning an area of about 100 metres and sent a sample to Brisbane for chemical analysis.

A number of witnesses, including representatives from the council and DERM, gave evidence they had seen dead trees and plants in the area where the pellets were found.

The private investigator provided Ms Ah Quay with a photoboard and she identified Mr Webster as the man she'd seen that night.

However, Magistrate Tom Killeen said the case had been "poorly investigated" and included no scientific evidence that the herbicide had damaged the vegetation.

The matter was dismissed and Mr Webster made no application for costs.

Topics:  crime fraser coast regional council hervey bay esplanade hervey bay magistrates court trees

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