Ever since Labor’s surprise election victory in Queensland last month, producers in Australia’s largest cattle producing state have been anxiously awaiting news on how the newly elected Palaszczuk Government will deal with vegetation management legislation.
In January then opposition leader Anastasia Palaszczuk promised to reintroduce Labor’s strict tree-clearing laws which were wound back by the Liberal-National Party in 2013 to give landholders more freedom to conduct low-risk essential farm activities, such as fencing and weed control, without impacting environmental health.
Queensland farm groups reacted angrily to the ALP’s pledge to reinstate the previous laws in full if re-elected, saying the move would force unnecessary and burdensome administrative and regulatory requirements on landholders for no environmental gain.
The issue has been front of mind for Queensland’s agricultural sector since Labor’s election last month.
Yesterday the state’s newly appointed minister for mines and natural resources, Dr Anthony Lynham, moved to assure Queensland landholders that it was “business as usual” under Queensland’s vegetation management regulatory framework – until it has time to consider its options.
“I want to assure landholders and industry that current vegetation management practices remain in operation and there will be no rushed changes to the Vegetation Management Act 1999,” he said.
“I have spoken with AgForce and the Queensland Farmers Federation and assured them they will be part of any consultation.
“I intend to get my boots dirty to see the laws in action for myself and consult broadly.
“I want to see what works well before I consider any options,” he said.
Dr Lynham said current vegetation management practices applied until landowners were notified about changes.
“That includes the 15 self-assessable vegetation management codes for routine, low-risk property management and maintenance activities without the need for a clearing permit,” he said.
“The same seven Area Management Plans and property-scale maps of assessable vegetation (PMAV) still apply.
“Drought-affected landholders can still pull mulga for fodder harvesting purposes to feed livestock.”
Dr Lynham said landholders thinking about undertaking any clearing are encouraged to call the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and discuss any issues with a local vegetation management officer.
AgForce welcomes assurance
AgForce Queensland AgForce General President, Grant Maudsley, said he welcomed the clarity offered by Minister Lynham to landholders concerned by announcements made during the State Election campaign in January.
“What this shows us is the existing framework continues to be administered and we know what it is we are working with,” Mr Maudsley said.
“We have met with the Minister and outlined our concerns in relation to statements made in the lead up to the State Election and have been assured there will be no surprises and that government will listen to landholders.”
Mr Maudsley said these assurances had been echoed by Minister for Agriculture, Bill Byrne, who over the last week had accompanied AgForce on a tour of regional Queensland.
“I have spent the last few days on the road with Minister Byrne who has also said there will be wide consultation with industry on vegetation management,” Mr Maudsley said.
“This tour has provided Minister Byrne with the opportunity to see firsthand that under the current framework, including Self Assessable Codes and existing mapping functions, landholders have the tools required to deliver positive, on the ground results for all stakeholders.
“The Minister has also seen and heard the importance of retaining Property Maps of Assessable Vegetation (PMAVS) to provide certainty and security to primary producers.”
However, Mr Maudsley reiterated the importance of landholders operating within current regulation.
“The existing rules are there for a reason and it is important landholders operate within these boundaries and that there is a compliance program in place should an individual step beyond this,” he said.
“We now look forward to working with Minister Lynham and Minister Byrne to continue to demonstrate the need to maintain the many balanced and positive aspects of the vegetation management framework.”
Source: Qld Government, AgForce. More information about vegetation management is available at:https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/management/