The shooting death of Environment and Heritage worker Glendon Turner on a property in northern NSW has left two communities in mourning and a family without their much-loved husband and father, the mayor of the region says.
Moree Plains Shire mayor Katrina Humphries said frustration over environmental issues around the Moree area had been so great in recent years that she had feared it would erupt in violence, but that it "shouldn't get to this".
Police confirmed a 51-year-old man from Tamworth had been killed at a property 55 kilometres north of Moree on the Newell Highway about 5.40pm on Tuesday.
Mr Turner had two young children, a son and a daughter, a family member said.
Police say they arrested a 79-year-old Moree man at a nearby property without incident just before 11pm.
Ian Turnbull was taken to Moree police station and charged on Wednesday morning with one count of murder. He is due to appear in Moree Local Court on Wednesday.
A source at the Department of Environment and Heritage said the victim had been serving a notice on an elderly man at a property in Croppa Creek when he was shot.
Mr Turnbull was receiving the notice because he was suspected of clearing vegetation illegally.
Another worker was with Mr Turner when he was shot, the department source - who did not wish to be named - said. The worker is understood to be in shock but is otherwise uninjured.
Mr Turnbull had been served previous notices for illegal clearing on his property and around the Croppa Creek area.
The victim had informed the man that there would be a formal inspection of his property on Wednesday.
Cr Humphries said there were no winners in a situation such as this.
"A man has lost his life, a lady has lost a husband, kids have lost their father. He [the alleged shooter] has got family too. There is no way to console anyone over this," she said.
"When somebody goes to do their job, and when they don't make it home, that's the biggest tragedy of all, that a man has lost his life. There are so many innocent parties drawn into it."
She said frustration over environmental issues around the Moree area had been simmering for quite a while.
"[Violence has] always been going to happen. I thought it would happen over coal or gas or water. The frustration is so great, but obviously to have an outcome like that is so horrible, it shouldn't get to this," she said.
"What are we doing, as communities, as Australians, what are we doing that a tragedy like this happens through absolute frustration?
"I'm a granny, so I think about those poor little children. It's so awful, it's a tragedy."
Tamworth deputy mayor Russell Webb said he felt for the family of the victim, including his wife and children.
"Here was someone going about their normal daily routine. Everyone expects when they go to work that they're entitled to go home. It's so sad when somebody leaves their family in the morning and never returns again," he said.
NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the tragedy.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and tight-knit staff of the Office of Environment and Heritage at this most difficult time,” Mr Stokes said.
“It is hard to fathom how it is that someone who leaves for work in the morning does not return in the afternoon.
“On behalf of the chief executive Terry Bailey and my colleagues in the NSW government, our hearts go out to all those who have been impacted by this tragedy."
A former work colleague of Mr Turner said he was a "nice bloke and a conscientious worker" who was always happy in the office.
The colleague, who wished to remain anonymous, said he and all of his colleagues were shocked following Mr Turner's death.
Barwon MP Kevin Humphries said he was shocked and saddened by Mr Turner's death.
"This is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts are with the family and friends of everyone affected," he said.
"It is distressing to think there are young children who will grow up without a father after this incident, and I hope the community will rally around them during this difficult time."
Mr Turnbull was charged with illegally clearing native vegetation between November 2011 and January 2012. He pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court.
The prosecutor, the Director-General of the Office of Environment and Heritage, said Mr Turnbull used a bulldozer to clear 421 hectares of the property called "Colorado", owned by his son Grant Wesley Turnbull, and 73 hectares of the adjacent property, called "Strathdoon", owned by his grandson Corey Ian Turnbull.
Grant and Corey had purchased the properties at Croppa Creek in late 2011.
After contracts were exchanged but before the sales settled, Mr Turnbull and another unnamed man felled 2708 trees on Colorado and 694 trees on Strathdoon. Trees were pushed over and formed into piles and set alight. The family then raked out the ash heaps, ploughed the cleared land, applied herbicides to kill any emerging vegetation and sowed commercial crops of wheat and barley.
The crops were harvested in late spring of 2012. The process of ploughing, herbicide spraying, and sowing and harvesting of commercial crops was repeated in 2013 and 2014 and the areas are currently under crop.
A sentencing hearing has been held and Justice Terence Sheahan is currently reserved on the penalty.
In a separate hearing in the Land and Environment Court in June, Grant and Corey appealed against a direction by the Director-General of the Office of Environment and Heritage to carry out work to repair damage caused by the clearing of native vegetation on the two properties.
On June 25, Chief Justice Brian Preston upheld the appeal and said remedial work could be carried out on other areas of the property rather than the parts illegally cleared.
The matter is due to return before Justice Sheahan on August 8.
Two further prosecutions have been commenced in the Land and Environment Court against Ian and Corey Turnbull in relation to unauthorised clearing on Strathdoon between January and September 2012.
On June 25 the chief executive, Office of Environment and Heritage, sought an order that both men attend court on August 8 to each answer the charge that, between about January 18, 2012, and September 4, 2012, at or near Croppa Creek, native vegetation was cleared without development consent granted in accordance with the act or a property vegetation plan.
- with Eryk Bagshaw
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A source said Mr Turner was a father of six although the victim's family has clarified that he had two children.