EXCLUSIVE: FOREIGN farm owner Hassad is being investigated over the clearing of native vegetation in western Victoria.
The company has admitted to removing an "area of native vegetation" due to a "miscommunication".
Hassad chief executive Tom McKeon said the company was "undertaking a major development program of land improvement by claying, and feral animal control (namely rabbits) on its Telopea property".
"This development is based on existing cropped and pastured country, however due to a miscommunication an area of native vegetation has been removed," he said.
However Mr McKeon said that the company was working in "collaboration" with the council and the Department of Sustainability and Environment to rectify the situation through some "significant offset provisions.
West Wimmera Shire confirmed it had been "made aware of allegations concerning possible native vegetation removal at a Telopea Downs property operated by Hassad Australia that may be in breach of the council planning provisions".
Owned by the Qatari Government, Hassad purchased 10 properties at Telopea Downs, on the Victorian-South Australian border earlier this year for an estimated $35 million.
The 40,454ha holding is about 11 times the size of Melbourne's CBD. Last year Hassad paid a similar price for five properties, totalling 8500ha, near Willaura in the Western District.
West Wimmera Shire chief executive Mark Crouch said the council was "conducting an independent investigation into the alleged removal of native vegetation".
"Council is currently waiting on aerial images that that will inform council the extent, if any, of the alleged native vegetation removal," Mr Crouch said.
"This information, when to hand, will assist Council in its discussions with the owners and operators.
"Hassad Australia has co-operated fully in the council investigation to date.
"Council will do all it can to progress discussions and examine possible remedies and required actions that council has scope to apply under the planning scheme."
"Steps will be taken to address any confirmed findings of native vegetation removal without the required planning approval," he said.