Future decisions about vegetation management legislation in Queensland should be determined by scientific evidence and not influenced by advocacy campaigns, says Queensland’s broadacre and livestock farming representative group AgForce.
Vegetation management has been a political football in the sunshine state in recent years with the Campbell Newman LNP Government winding back restrictions on agricultural land development introduced by the previous Beattie and Bligh Labor Governments, branding the laws overly onerous and draconian. However, after winning power earlier this year, the Palaczcuk Labor Government has indicated its desire to see previous restrictions reinstated.
AgForce says Queensland landholders are looking for certainty for long-term management and investment decisions, and want to ensure that future vegetation management laws align with available evidence.
On that front the group released its own report on Friday which it says underlines the link between the rates of vegetation clearing and Queensland’s variable rainfall.
“Wet weather and cyclone events in 2010 required an increase in clearing rates in 2011 and 2012, with woody vegetation growth above average,” AgForce president Grant Maudsley said.
“Now farmers and producers are facing a different set of challenges and need to be able to manage their land in a drought.”
AgForce says its research shows that:
- less than one per cent of Queensland’s woody vegetation is cleared annually;
- clearing for High Value Agriculture prepares for variable climate and produces food and fibre for an increasing world population; and
- Ground cover, not tree cover, determines erosion risk.
AgForce’s view is that good outcomes for both agriculture and the environment hinge on ensuring that vegetation management legislation is based on science and evidence, and rely on all sides working together to find a solution.
However it says green groups are refusing to negotiate with farmers. Mr Maudsley said green groups believed they had senior Queensland Labor Ministers in their pocket and did not need to negotiate with farmers to get the outcome they are seeking.
The comments come after one of the most active groups in Queensland’s vegetation management debate, the World Wildlife Fund, released what it terms Queensland’s “tree clearing map of shame“. The group claims the map shows 94 locations where over the last three years native vegetation has been cleared or approved for clearing since the previous Queensland Government watered down tree clearing laws.
However AgForce says the State Government’s own five-point plan contains a vegetation health check which shows that 97 per cent of farmers are complying with clearing rules and a new monitoring system.
“During a drought we expect the use of mulga as a fodder reserve for sheep and cattle in hard-hit areas would be a larger than usual contributor to overall vegetation management rates for the 2013-14 period,” Mr Maudsley said.
“However, if a producer or farmer is doing the wrong thing we support tough penalities.
“Last month green groups accused a landholder near Augathella of clearing his land, illegally. It was investigated by the government and shown to be a false claim.
“There are areas of North Queensland where landholders and Traditional Owners are working to get the balance right between economic development and the environment. That’s responsible.”
Mr Maudsley said the rural sector was willing to work with the State Government to build consensus around a future approach to vegetation management.
“Minister Anthony Lynham last week announced a round table to find a solution to these issues but this will only work if all parties come together in good faith,” Mr Maudsley said.
To view the AgForce report, click here