Opposition attacks Queensland vegetation clearing laws

VEGETATION: Farmers say restrictions on land clearing will affect their ability to produce food.
VEGETATION: Farmers say restrictions on land clearing will affect their ability to produce food.

OPPOSITION leader Deb Frecklington has hit back at the state government over moves to reign in vegetation clearing which ballooned to 400,000 hectares a year after the Newman government eased regulations.

Ms Frecklington said she would fight tooth and nail to defend farmers and property rights.

“Labor has launched an unfair attack on farmers, their families and farming communities right across Queensland,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Labor’s proposed vegetation management laws are offensive and I will fight them at every turn.

“Instead of supporting farmers (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk is tying them up in more red tape and threatening their ability to grow the food we put our tables and the fibre we put on our backs.”

Ms Frecklington said the legislation was bad for the south-east as well as regional areas.

Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham introduced tree-clearing reforms last week, telling Parliament that responsible vegetation management would be reintroduced.

“These laws will protect our climate, our wildlife and our Great Barrier Reef, and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on the Reef,” Dr Lynham said.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the policy was based on science and would maintain biodiversity, reduce land degradation, protect water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the sustainable use of land.

“The changes proposed in this legislation are backed by science and have been expertly prepared by the Queensland Herbarium and peer reviewed by the CSIRO,” Ms Enoch said.

“In 2015/16, close to 400,000 hectares of vegetation was cleared under the former LNP Government – that’s more than twice the area of Brisbane and seven times the size of Rockhampton.

“If the current clearing rate continues, it will drive native wildlife to extinction, put jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef at risk, drive up Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent Australia from meeting its international climate commitments.”

Among changes, proposed laws will:

# ban broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation;

# increase, up to almost treble, the maximum penalties courts could impose for illegal clearing to more than half-a-million-dollars;

# give compliance officers more powers and enforcement tools;

# require farmers to get approval to thin vegetation; and

# allow farmers to harvest fodder trees to feed livestock.

Dr Lynham said more accurate vegetation maps were also released, the first major review to vegetation and ecosystem mapping in five years.

Ms Frecklington said the vegetation protection laws would affect housing affordability, food security and make battling drought more difficult.

“We need less emotion and more facts in the vegetation management debate,” she said.

“Protecting the reef is vital but scaremongering about the impact of farmers is disgraceful,” she said.

Opposition natural resources spokesman Dale Last said the laws would mean Queensland could not supply more avocados, mangoes and macadamia nuts.

“Smashed avocado, mango salsa and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts are better if they come from Queensland,” he said.