Cobboboonee camp unrest
A MAN who allegedly struck a police officer to the head with a coffee cup has been charged with assaulting police following a scuffle at a camp site.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said police were at a Cobboboonee forest site on Tuesday to assist Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) workers following a court order to remove a makeshift campsite.
Police allege that three people at the site became verbally aggressive when the court order was presented to them, and a 63-year-old Portland man approached a DELWP staff member.
A police officer was concerned the DELWP staffer was going to be assaulted and stepped in.
During a subsequent struggle the police officer was struck on the head with a coffee cup.
The 63-year-old was arrested and charged with hindering police and resisting arrest as well as the assault, and was bailed with an order that he appear in the Portland Magistrates’ Court on July 2.
DELWP’s makeshift campsite removal occurred because they noted that it was an offence to camp in an area of state forest for more than 28 days.
A DELWP spokesperson said that on December 6, 2018, Forest and Wildlife officers served a court order on two people requiring the removal of items from the site that weren’t permitted to be in the forest for more than 28 days.
A February 5 hearing in the Portland Magistrates’ Court upheld the previous decision and gave the two people 14 days to remove the items.
“As the individuals have not complied with the court order, an operation took place on 19 March to remove the items,” the spokesperson added.
A person at the site on Wednesday, Mitch Vella, said a “shack” of about 10m by 7m had been demolished as a result of the order, as well as another construction he described as a “lounge room,” and a canopy that had been erected on stumps.
In addition, two caravans and a solar power system worth $10,000 had been removed, he added.
Mr Vella said he had been staying at the site to help protect culturally important trees, and had lived in the region for the past two years after growing up in Western Australia and also living in New South Wales.
• A police drug response unit spokesperson from Portland said yesterday that two previous searches of the area near the campsite had resulted in 13 cannabis plants being located.
On January 26 a search found 10 plants, with a man aged in his 20s and another in his 30s charged with cultivating, possessing and trafficking cannabis.
The man in his 30s was also charged with a weapons offence, while the younger man was charged with threatening to inflict serious injury.
Last week (on Wednesday, March 13) a further search located an additional three cannabis plants.
The 63-year-old man is expected to be charged with similar drug offences on summons.