Special Wildlife Reserves could take away more ag land

By Grant Maudsley, Agforce General President
Updated July 17 2017 - 1:20pm, first published 1:07pm
Wildlife reserves could take away more ag land
Wildlife reserves could take away more ag land

While global demand for the high quality food and fibre we produce in Australia grows by the day, the constant loss of agricultural land makes it harder for us to meet this demand.

Too often good quality agricultural country is taken for other purposes such as mining, urban development and national parks.

Now the Queensland Government is planning to create ‘Special Wildlife Reserves’, which will let private landholders and conservation groups manage their land like a national park.

This will again see land permanently removed from agricultural production, with the Environment Department stating commercial grazing would not be compatible with the new reserves.

AgForce argues that an area of actively used agricultural land has the ability to comprehensively and securely protect outstanding conservation values and in fact, over four million hectares, or 30 per cent of the total protected areas in Queensland already do through the Nature Refuges program.

We also know that simply locking away land does not always protect it, but rather opens the door to feral animal, pest and weed infestation, and fire risks. 

AgForce regularly receives feedback that the current public protected area estate is not managed properly, and we hold grave concerns about how special wildlife reserves – which have the potential to sterilise whole landscapes - will be managed into the future.

We know that once bought and gazetted the purchasers won’t be able to do anything on special wildlife reserves – so how will they fund ongoing management?

AgForce has called for conservancies to lodge 50-year bonds towards property management costs, but the Queensland Government is yet to respond to our call.

Several other groups share AgForce’s concerns about these new reserves with the Cape York Land Council fearing the impact on Indigenous employment and highlighting the “major risk that wealthy conservation groups will use the acquisition of pastoral leases and their conversion to special wildlife reserves as a way of strategically locking land up from economic development.”

AgForce argues that sustainable farming and the protection of the environment can occur simultaneously, and an increased investment and commitment to the Nature Refuges program would be far more beneficial than creating yet another class of protected area.

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