"Monumentally foolish and cruel" is how western Queensland MP Lachlan Millar is describing news that the commercial harvest of eastern grey kangaroos has been suspended in parts of the state's central zone for 2020.
The change to the quota for the coming year, attributed to drought, came to light when departmental correspondence to individual stakeholders was sent out.
On being made aware of the situation, the Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar called on Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch to restore the quota immediately.
"The correspondence appears to be a reminder to renew licenses until you read the bit about a zero quota for the central zone, north and south," said Mr Millar.
"This is an appalling way to communicate with people whose livelihoods you are summarily shutting down and I have written to the minister asking her to restore quotas in the central zone, and to conduct departmental forums so stakeholders can be heard."
The zero quota for eastern greys will affect an area that runs from the Mckinlay shire boundary in the north to the NSW border in the south and east to Morven, all of which is currently drought declared.
In addition, no commercial harvest of common wallaroos will be allowed in the central zone south, which takes in Bulloo, Murweh, Paroo and Quilpie shires.
According to an environment department spokesman, populations of the main three macropod species - the red kangaroo, the common wallaroo and eastern grey kangaroo - have declined in Queensland's central zone south and central zone north, thanks to drought.
He said harvest quota trigger points were set in the federal government's Wildlife Trade Management Plan, and when macropod numbers, determined by surveys, dropped below the trigger point, harvest quotas were reduced or the harvest suspended.
"This is what has occurred in the central zone north and the central zone south," he said. "Scientific evidence, including an aerial survey, showed population estimates had reached the trigger points."
It appears that aerial surveys are conducted annually in the Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville and Windorah regions and biennially in other sections of the central zone.
According to figures supplied to the federal Department of Environment and Energy, numbers of the three species have been declining in Queensland from a high of 32,803,900 in 2013 to 20,999,900 in 2018.
One western Queenslander who queried the need for the harvest suspension was the Australian Wool Network representative stationed at Longreach, Greg Hunt, who regularly travels a 300km radius of the town and is often on the road early in the morning and at dusk.
"I disagree that population levels are critical," he said.
"Driving between Barcaldine and Longreach just after dark last week I would have seen probably 200 roos just on the roadside.
"They're continuing to breed too, even though it's dry - there are a lot of smaller kangaroos."
He agreed that he was seeing more red kangaroos than other species, and queried the time of day that surveys were conducted.
He said he'd spoken with a number of property owners who were making use of damage mitigation permits because of the ongoing impact kangaroos were having on what pasture they had left.
Mr Millar said annual quotas based on two-year-old surveys were not the way to manage kangaroo populations in a drought.
"The eastern grey kangaroo's life cycle is evolved to boom in response to rain so when some areas get a sprinkle, roos will breed up there," he said.
"We need to be protecting grasses so we can last out the drought and then manage through recovery.
"You won't achieve that by treating huge tracts of Queensland as if they are all the same."
He said that if the drought broke this summer the Queensland government must actively assist good management of the grass growth rather than exhibit "ideological self-indulgence aimed at green activists in Brisbane by summarily shutting an entire industry in small, local economies already devastated by drought".
He noted that on the day NSW was 100 per cent drought declared, it announced that it was relaxing its kangaroo culling permits as a way of protecting the environment.
"I hope the minister will reverse this decision. If not, it will be monumentally foolish and monumentally cruel," he said.
Ms Enoch responded that if Mr Millar had any understanding of commercial kangaroo harvesting, he would understand that the trigger for annual harvest quotas were set in a federally-governed management plan.
"If the member has a problem with the federal legislation, he should take it up with his federal LNP colleagues in Canberra."
She said there had been no changes to the way landholders could manage kangaroos on their land and were still able to apply for a damage mitigation permit to carry out management activities.
The state departmental spokesman said it was rare for commercial harvest quotas to be reached in Queensland, and that the state's quota per head of population were in line with other jurisdictions.
Last year across Queensland harvest numbers reached 24 per cent of the allowable quota, and it was 26pc the year before that.
Most kangaroo processing businesses approached for comment declined to speak on the subject.