Qld Parliament should now make land clearing Bill stronger, then pass it

MEDIA RELEASE: April 23, 2018  Peak group, the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) has welcomed release of a Parliamentary Inquiry report, which recommends Parliament support proposed legislative changes to Queensland’s land clearing laws.

The report, from the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee comes exactly one month after peak conservation, agricultural and other groups presented to them in Brisbane.  The Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 is designed to amend Queensland’s land clearing laws, and was introduced in response to current land clearing trends and commitments made during the election.

The government majority members of the Committee have supported provisions in the Bill to:

  • scrap so-called ‘high value agriculture’ as a relevant clearing purpose, introduced by the Newman government;
  • protect high value regrowing woodlands, re-protecting many woodlands deregulated by Newman, but with a widened definition of ‘high conservation value’ regrowth;
  • scrap the self-assessed code for thinning, although the Bill does still allow for limited ‘managing thickened vegetation’ under development application processes;
  • extend Great Barrier Reef riparian protections to all reef catchments; and
  • axe existing Area Management Plans which have allowed for regional clearing, although most will be phased out over two years rather than being terminated now.

“This Bill represents an important milestone in Queensland’s land clearing legislative approach”, said Dr Tim Seelig, head of the Queensland Conservation Council

“It will see the ending of broadscale remnant clearing for spurious agricultural reasons, it will see the reprotection of high conservation value regenerating woodlands under a modified definition, and it will see a curtailing of remnant thinning.

“It will extend Reef riparian area protections and terminate current Area Management Plans.

“By supporting this Bill, the Committee has endorsed action to reverse the upward trend in land clearing, which was facilitated by the weakening of legislation in 2012-13, and to protect more native woodlands.

“We are disappointed that the Committee has not sought to close-down loopholes and gaps which will remain in the legislation and its operation, and we strongly recommend the Queensland Parliament seek to strengthen the Bill, and then support its enactment.

“We would still like to see amendment to the Bill to completely remove ‘managing thickened vegetation’ provisions from the Vegetation Management Act, and to see an immediate end to Area Management Plans.  Other legislative and policy tightening will likely be required in due course.

“We recognize the Bill will not stop all clearing of native woodlands in Queensland. It will not fully address Queensland’s land clearing crisis.

“Nevertheless, it is a significant step forward that will make a big difference, and we welcome and support it.

“Queensland Parliament should now make land clearing Bill stronger, then pass it.

“More still needs to be done to ensure koala habitat is out of bounds to all development. We look forward to the release of the Koala Expert Panel report so that we can move into finding suitable responses.

“The government also still needs to ensure that woodlands intended at a policy level to be protected are indeed safeguarded from the bulldozers and chains.”

QCC has indicated directly to government about the need for additional reforms at the policy level and potentially at the legislative level to further protect koalas and their habitats, to protect native woodlands that will miss out on protection because of past policy, and to implement the Land Restoration Fund to create incentives for additional woodland retention.

For further contact:   

Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Dr Tim Seelig on 0439 201 183

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