Environmentalists have slammed the Queensland Government’s move to allow grazing in the state's national parks, telling ABC’s PM program last night the move will endanger 20 rare species of plants and animals, and calling on the government to pay for fodder and agistment instead.
However their comments have been challenged in return by a Queensland agribusiness lawyer who says their statements reflect a lack of understanding of rural Australia or common sense policy.
Environmental spokesman Paul Donatiu from the National Parks Association of Queensland told last night's ABC radio program that funding should instead be made available to buy fodder or help producers to move cattle to agistment in other areas.
“All the places that have come across as national park have been selected because of their high conservation value. And it's these values – the inherent vegetation communities, plants, animals, some very rare, some endemic, that are actually at risk from this action,” he told the program.
Queensland Greens senator Larissa Waters added that the Queensland Government had known drought was deepening for six months but had done “absolutely nothing to fix it”, and national parks would now take another hit as a result.
However, their comments have been described as being “obviously devoid of any thinking, policy framework or costings” by Queensland agribusiness lawyer Trent Thorne from McCullogh Robertson lawyers in Brisbane.
This was based on the fact that most of the relevant country was in drought and had no fodder, and affected producers had been scrambling to find agistment for cattle which meant there was little fodder available where country was in better seasonal condition.
The only fodder potentially available was on the coastal fringe, which would be extremely expensive to feight to drought-affected areas of the state's west and north west, a cost which would be exacerbated by the need for helicopters to further transport fodder to particular paddocks.
Mr Thorne said Ms Waters’ comments that the Government had plenty of time to prepare for the problem indicated a lack of understanding about rural Australia.
“The question which flows out of that is was the government to anticipate that some of these producers would not receive the rain that the rest of the coastal fringe was receiving?," Mr Thorne said.
“It was not clear until the end of the wet season, only a couple of weeks ago, that the expected rains were not going to come. Even producers on the land were holding out for the rain in the hope that they would not need to move their cattle.
“This is nothing but a disingenuous statement by someone who obviously does not understand the industry, and peculiarly for a green senator, does not understand climate dynamics either.”