Cultivating Murder – a brutal “political” killing

A farmer who gunned down a NSW environment officer during a protracted and terrifying ordeal has been jailed for at least 24 years. Glen Turner had been shot three times by 78-year-old farmer Ian Turnbull –  a man hellbent on revenge, and who died in prison.

“He shot an innocent man, twice,” Robert, the only witness to the murderous 20-minute game of cat-and-mouse Turnbull played with the pair, and was shown on Sunday Night program.

Ian Turnbull, then 81, used a hunting rifle to murder Glen Turner, 51, who was on public land with a colleague on July 29, 2014, near the farmer’s property at Croppa Creek in the NSW’s north. The murder prosecution and legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court for alleged illegal land clearing had put his family under immense financial pressure, and took aim at the Native Vegetation Act. By the time Turnbull had been fined $140,000 plus costs over the illegal clearing in 2011, Glen had become, in his mind, his nemesis, the focus of a hate bordering on obsession.

The colleague of slain environment officer Glen Turner has told how he pleaded in vain with gunman Ian Turnbull to put down his gun and let him seek medical help.


(image: NSW Police –

Turner had grown up in a small town and when he started his own family, in his 40s, he’d moved to a bush block 60km outside Tamworth. Asked to describe the most comfortable part of his job, he once replied: “Talking to farmers. Driving around properties with the ‘old mates’ chatting about the weather, how good the cattle look, how bad the government is and that I only work for them, not make the rules”. Much of his job involved compiling the evidence used to prosecute farmers for illegal clearing and he was acutely aware that a conviction could financially devastate them. It was the old ­farmers that Turner often felt sorry for, the ones who still remembered the days when the government paid you to clear land. Some of them innocently got themselves into trouble, he told his superiors during one work review, and “really need our help, not our punishment”.

Murderer Ian Turnbull had pleaded guilty, a year earlier, to illegally bulldozing nearly 500ha of trees, and was facing a hefty fine and a ­potential legal bill of more than $300,000. Meanwhile, his 47-year-old son and 29-year-old grandson, who owned the properties Turnbull had cleared, had amassed their own legal bills fighting a state government order that they restore the cleared land to pristine bush – an exercise they said would bankrupt them.

As soon as the murder hit the headlines, it fascinated film-maker Gregory Miller, whose credits include environmentally themed documentaries on climate change (Cool School Antarctica) and China (New Beijing: Reinventing A City). Miller has now finished the documentary Cultivating Murder, which looks at the consequences of the killing and the tensions between farmers and environmentalists over land clearing for large-scale cropping. It starts a series of screenings around the country on April 20.

The film also shows the environmental damage that land-clearing has caused in the area, including the destruction of koala habitats. “Koalas all over the east coast of Australia are under massive threat,” Miller says. “It’s bizarre that we’re not just killing off the Great Barrier Reef, we’re killing off our iconic native animals.”


Cultivating Murder – Trailer from Real Film Festival on Vimeo.

The heart-rending story of environmentalist Glen Turner, who was gunned down on the side of a road in Croppa Creek

From 13 May, 80 mins
Full $18 Concession $14 Members $12
Federation Square, Melbourne

In May, the Government released a draft package of biodiversity and land management reforms.  It included scrapping the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Native Vegetation Act 2003.  In a conflict of  interests, the NSW under the Baird government was making land-clearing EASIER, in what’s called “reforms”.  Chair of NSW Farmers, Mitchell Clapham said current legislation is “enormously damaging” for farmers and welcomed reform.

“We have enormous tracks of land in the north-west of the state that are now covered in invasive native scrub and, because of the current acts and legislation, cannot be managed,” he said.

Environmentalists fear the reforms will result in wide-scale habitat destruction and wildlife extinction.

So, the Colonial mentality of clear, slash and burn still continues, despite greater knowledge in conservation, climate change and our abysmal native animals extinction rates!


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