THE Palaszczuk government says it has delivered on a key election commitment introducing new tree-clearing laws in parliament today.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the laws would protect the climate, wildlife and Great Barrier Reef, and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on the Reef.
“They will continue Labor’s proud legacy from 1999 to 2013,” Dr Lynham said.
“Landholders will still be able to maintain their land and clear fodder trees to feed their stock, and the majority of landholders will continue to do the right thing, as they do now.”
The new laws have been strongly rejected by farmers, who say the Palaszczuk government is ignoring science in its bid to appease Labor-aligned extreme green groups.
Dr Lynham said the new laws included:
- Banning broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture.
- Expanding the “high value regrowth” that is protected from vegetation that hasn’t been cleared since the beginning of 1990 – 28 year-old trees – to 15-year-old trees. This means an extra 232,000 ha of trees will be protected.
- Increasing, up to almost treble, the maximum penalties courts could impose for illegal clearing to more than half-a-million-dollars.
- Giving compliance officers more powers and enforcement tools.
- Requiring farmers to get approval to thin vegetation.
- Allowing farmers to continue to harvest fodder trees to feed livestock.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government’s 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.
“This policy forms part of a suite of initiatives the Palaszczuk government is delivering to protect our environment, tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions.”
Dr Lynham said the government was meeting its election commitment to retain the accepted development codes that are supported by science.
“New, more accurate vegetation maps were also released today for the entire state, the first major review of major update to vegetation and ecosystem mapping in five years,” he said.
“The improved maps now reflect the best available sciences and will support landholders to manage their land.
“Landholders will continue to have certainty about what they will be able to clear in the future because we are retaining Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV).”