A litterer who illegally dumped soil in seven separate locations in Woowookarung Regional Park has been ordered to clear up his mess - and pay the costs out of his own pocket.
The offender, whom Parks Victoria has declined to name, put around 15 cubed meters of earth at different sites in the location to the south-east of central Ballarat.
The Courier understands the man was spotted driving a vehicle with the soil by a member of the public, who subsequently reported what they had seen to Parks Victoria.
The organisation, which has been responsible for administering the area since it became a regional park in 2016, were then able to track down the culprit.
He was interviewed with help from Victoria Police. Under the Environmental Protection Act, he was ordered to tidy up and dispose of the waste, which has now been removed.
A Parks Victoria spokesperson said there were a number of other ongoing investigations for littering and illegal wood collection offences.
It confirmed that six further littering incidents as well as two reports of illegal timber harvesting were currently under investigation with two littering fines issued recently,
The organisation said both surveillance cameras and vigilant visitors were the key to cracking down on littering offences.
Littering and illegal dumping has long been an issue in the area.
The Courier understands the problem had decreased in the area since it gained regional park status and the number of people using the park increased. Regular Parks Victoria patrols also started to go through the area. However, dumping has spiked since the COVID-19 crisis began.
Siobhan Rogan, Parks Victoria chief ranger for the Ballarat area, said: "The Ballarat region has many beautiful parks and reserves that we should all help to keep healthy - not just for community enjoyment but for the plants and wildlife that these areas protect."
"Rubbish dumping is harmful to the environment and can be hazardous to humans and wildlife.
"Waste makes it into waterways through run-off, garden clippings spread invasive weeds, and animals and birds can ingest discarded waste material."
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The area officially became a regional park in 2016 following a pre-election commitment by then leader of the opposition Dan Andrews in 2014.
A state-government lease to a logging company ended in 2012, allowing local advocates to push for the area to be returned to community use. The campaign was led by the Friends of Canadian Corridor. Initiatives to boost the use of the park include the installation of a scenic lookout. A sensory trail aimed specifically at those suffering from dementia is also being installed, while work will shortly begin for another trail chosen using the Pick My Project initiative.
A report from Parks Victoria on the successful anti-littering investigation was included in the most recent issue of the Friends of Canadian Corridor newsletter, Spikey News.
In it, Parks Victoria said its rangers "would like to thank the many friends of the park for making the effort to report illegal activities" and described their response as "fantastic".
- Parks Victoria said anyone who spots illegal littering or timber harvesting should report it in as much detail as possible to email@example.com. Alternatively, call Parks Victoria on 13 1963 or the EPA on 1300 372 842.
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