“This is the start of something big” is how Agforce cattle board director, Blair Knuth, has described the rallies being mounted this week to protest proposed Palaszczuk government changes to vegetation management regulations in Queensland.
Speaking from Townsville before a background of placard-bearing farmers, Mr Knuth echoed the thoughts of many when he declared that he and fellow landholders had had enough of farmer-bashing in the state.
“It just seems to be from one lot of red tape and regulation to the next,” he said, declaring that with the government seemingly uninterested in the science surrounding land and vegetation management, people had no other choice than to protest to get their point across.
“There’s no way these people are going to back down this time – it’s all round the state,” he said.
Flooded creeks prevented a number of would-be protesters from being able to make their voices heard in Townsville, but over 400 at Rockhampton certainly made the feelings of Queensland’s farming community known.
Among the speakers at Seagulls Seafront Resort were North Queensland Conservation Council president, Wendy Tubman; Magnetic Island Nature Care Association president, Gethin Morgan; Charters Towers landholder and 2017 NAB Agribusiness Rising Champion, Kylie Stretton; Ingham landholder, Des Bolton; Collinsville grazier, Bristow Hughes; and Townsville and Region Environment Foundation spokeswoman, Rebecca Smith.
Kylie and husband Shane thinned their 100 acre block in 2015 and she told the Parliamentary hearing that followed the protest this had quadrupled their productivity, tripled their carrying capacity, and had resulted in less soil-carrying run-off.
They had also been able to offer employment for the first time, and it was her comments on this that brought the greatest applause from the public gallery.
“We are told that north and west Queensland has the highest youth unemployment and I asked the question, what is to become of them if we can’t improve our land,” Kylie said.
Bristow Hughes, Strathalbyn, Collinsville, spoke about reducing runoff while Des Bolton addressed the hearing on carbon.
Kylie said the committee questioned her at length about their PMAV and what they’d had to go through to thin their country.
“It was a good showing at Townsville,” she said. “I don’t think it will make a difference this time but when a new government comes in, they’ll know how strongly we feel about this.”
The Parliamentary committee will face more protesters at Cloncurry on Wednesday, and in Longreach and Charleville on Thursday.
In 2016 another Parliamentary committee looking into the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill held a similar hearing in Townsville, which was addressed by Charters Towers graziers, Colin and Noeleen Ferguson.
In words echoed by current arguments against tightening vegetation management laws, they told the 2016 hearing their efforts to build a sound and strategic asset on the Burdekin River that offered drought-proofing as well as economic productivity could be undone.
They said plans to boost their existing 18ha irrigated fodder plot beside the Burdekin to 80ha of irrigated lucerne and forage sorghum were crucial to allow them to move forward.
“This small, critical value-adding area will significantly increase the economic productivity of our property’s enterprise without adversely affecting the adjoining natural environment,” Noeleen said.