Barry Le Cornu guilty of illegal dredging at Cape Jervis retreat
Former furniture magnate Barry Lance Le Cornu has been found guilty of illegally dredging the beach outside his waterfront retreat near Cape Jervis.
The Environment, Resources and Development Court heard that Mr Le Cornu and his son Allan had removed boulders and rocks from the beach before building a concrete boat ramp at the sprawling property south of Adelaide.
However Mr Le Cornu told officers from the Department of Environment and Water that he had put his “heart” into improving the property by planting thousands of trees, installing sand dune netting and erecting two kilometres of fox fence.
The property at Morgan’s Beach is adjacent to the Encounter Marine Park Habitat Protection Zone, a stretch of vulnerable reef.
Both father and son were charged with dredging a natural causeway, depositing the dredged material on land and damaging algae which was living on the rocks.
The activity, which took place between December 4 and 9, 2017, was discovered when a DEW vessel was conducting scientific research in the protection zone.
The vessel’s crew spotted an excavator operating on the beach during the lowest tide of the year.
Allan Le Cornu was driving the excavator as it removed rocks from the inter-tidal zone, the area left exposed when the tide moves out.
A marine biology expert told the court that there was a layer of dead organisms on the beached rocks, including tubeworms and algae.
He said the fauna were permanently attached to the rocks and were not able to move when the rocks were relocated.
Less than a week later officers from DEW went to the beach and used a drone to survey the effect of the excavator.
They found a clear channel through the rocks leading to a concrete ramp. The removed rocks were used to reinforce the area around the boat ramp.
Four or five truck loads of cement were needed to build the ramp.
Both father and son face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a $100,000 fine for each charge.
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The excavator was equipped with a GPS tracker which showed in real time its movements on the beach.
When interviewed by officers from DEW Barry Le Cornu defended his environmental record on the property.
“I feel that I’ve been a very strong environmentalist and conservation person,” he said.
“Based on when I bought the property 23 years ago. There was not a tree in the place.
“There were two lots of bad erosion on the property. There were no animals, no insects, nothing whatsoever.
“Over that period of time I planted 20,000 trees by hand. That’s what I’ve done. It’s taken me 20 years of my life.
“If you look at the photographs going back there 23 years ago, there was nothing. Now I’ve got kangaroos back there.
“I’ve got blue wrens, willy wag tails, lorikeets, parakeets and golden wattle birds down there.
“I did it with my heart in it, I did it with looking at what’s the right thing to do.”
Both father and son will be sentenced in September.
Originally published as Le Cornu illegally dredged beach at sprawling mansion