Since 1988, the Queensland Government has been using satellite imagery to analyze reductions in woody vegetation and report their findings via the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS).
However, despite the improvements in technology over the past three decades, the Queensland Government still doesn’t measure how much vegetation has grown during the same period of analysis.
This is a glaring gap in the data as farmers on the ground can point to parts of their properties where trees and shrubs are thicker than ever and are rapidly encroaching on the semi-open woodlands and naturally open grasslands where cattle and sheep graze.
It’s a simple fact that farmers need to manage vegetation on their land to grow food, and we don’t want harsher laws imposed on us on the basis of incomplete information.
Briefing notes released under Right to Information laws reveal Ministers were told by Departmental officials in 2016 that ‘we have accurate information on losses, but not accurate information on gains’.
Yet since then, little has been done to give the scientists the tools they need to look at the full picture on vegetation management.
In effect, the SLATS report only tells half the story. You can’t and won’t get the best environmental and agricultural production outcomes making decisions on flawed data sets.
AgForce has always said we are willing to engage in a science and evidence-based process on this issue, which means looking at all the facts, including how much vegetation has regrown and why vegetation was being managed, not just how much has been cleared.
For our part, AgForce recently released our ‘Healthy Environment, Healthy Agriculture’ policy in a bid to stop the political ping pong on vegetation management.
The Palaszczuk Government now has the numbers in Parliament, so this issue will test whether they are willing to put the politics aside, let the science tell the whole story and work with those most affected by these laws to come up with a long-lasting solution.