BIGGENDEN cattle producers Rob and Sharon Lohse know exactly what its takes to stand up to a bully.
But when the biggest bully in the schoolyard is the Queensland Government it can take some doing.
That was 2004 when the then Beattie Government was going to extreme lengths to paint farmers the length and breadth of Queensland as environmental vandals.
Beattie’s mission was to secure the urban green vote and maintain power for Labor while exploiting the intractable tensions between the divided Nationals and Liberal parties.
Belting farmers from George Street was not just a sport for Labor, it helped keep Team Beattie in power.
Part of the green agenda was to convert massive areas of productive forestry country into land reserved for conservation. The end game for the greens was to have five per cent of Queensland’s land area declared as national parks.
The downside of achieving the bureaucratic target was it meant largely shutting down the forestry industry and in many cases booting off cattle producers who had been sustainably grazing the same heavily timbered country for well over a century.
For Rob and Sharon Lohse the eviction order telling them their grazing lease located 55km south of Biggenden would not be renewed as it was required for a national park meant they would lose not only lose 1400-hectares of frontage country but also their entire cattle business.
The lease under threat was where all of their infrastructure including their home, sheds and cattle yards was located. The lease also provided the only access to 4000ha of other country held by the Lohses which runs up onto the Great Dividing Range.
It was a directive the Lohses and other similarly affected landholders were not willing to cop. They engaged solicitor David Kempton who specialises in property rights to fight the decision.
Despite the arguments put forward by the landholders to the government there was no willingness to negotiate. The case went to the Supreme Court where the Queensland Government failed in its bid to prove there was a valid reason why the leases needed to be protected as national park.
The landholders had won. Almost.
In the wash-up, the Lohse’s lease was renewed. However, it was only for 20 years instead of the usual 30 year period. But what followed revealed the depth of the rat-cunning of a green-compliant bureaucracy. Without even the courtesy of consulting the Lohses, the new lease was issued as grazing rights on a national park.
The two-card trick was that at the end of the 20 year period the Lohses would not be able to argue that the land was not required for a national park because the land was already national park.
“We knew it was only renewed as a 20 year lease when it had always been a 30 year term,” Mrs Lohse said.
“We didn’t fight it because, well frankly, if anyone has ever taken on the massive legal resources of the government you simply do not have the mental energy to continue against the government’s endless number of legal people.
“But what we didn’t know was to what lengths the government would go to take back this country.
“At no stage did we realise it had been converted to national park. All we knew is it had been reduced to 20 year lease.”
Fast forward to 2016 and the vote hungry minority Palaszczuk Government is now in the process of removing cattle producers from 78 leases to appease its green power base.
While the Lohses have not yet received any notification they will be evicted from the lease which was first bought by Mr Lohse’s grandfather in 1916, they are understandably worried.
Mrs Lohse said the irony was that stopping cattle grazing on the land would destroy its conservation values.
“We directly and indirectly spend about $100,000 a year on weed, feral animal and fire management in this mountainous terrain with no thanks or assistance from the government,” Mrs Lohse said. “Without the management we provide this country will become an overrun mass of weeds and lantana. The government will also miss out on the revenue we pay as leaseholders.
“And for what? It is not the pristine environment the government is pretending it is.
“You only have to look at other land the government has taken back for national parks to know they do not manage country once it is locked up.
“We demonstrated in the Supreme Court how we have managed this land for more than a 100 years in a way that has protected the conservation values. That will all be lost.”
Mrs Lohse said once the fuel load was created bush fires would devastate the country and any wildlife.
“It will be horrendous,” Mrs Lohse said. “They will see the fire from Brisbane.”
Despite the sustainability of cattle and the management of the landscape by graziers Environment Minister Stephen Miles said cattle and national parks were incompatible.
“Cattle cause substantial compaction and erosion to these native habitats so the longer you leave cattle within these areas, the more opportunity there is to do damage to those rare and threatened species populations,” Dr Miles said.