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Legal action threat hangs over droughted producers using National Parks

Beef Central, 24/06/2013

Queensland producer group AgForce has expressed growing frustration at the Federal Government’s public ridicule of emergency grazing in National Parks and its failure to rule out taking legal action against drought stricken graziers.

Earlier this year AgForce was successful in negotiating temporary access for drought affected livestock to a series of National Reserves and National Parks as an urgent drought mitigation response.

Under the agreement, eight properties purchased in conjunction with the Commonwealth under the National Reserve System (NRS) – which have until recently operated as cattle stations – as well as an additional five areas currently declared National Park would be made available for emergency use by some of Queensland’s most drought-affected primary producers.  In June an Expressions of Interest process for eligible graziers began.

However, despite the decision to temporarily open these areas Federal Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, has ridiculed the agreement and not dismissed mobilising his powers to prosecute graziers who enter into such an arrangement with the State Government.

In a statement this afternoon, AgForce Queensland president Ian Burnett said Mr Burke’s position defied logic and put the animal welfare of many thousands of cattle at risk in addition to jeopardising the wellbeing of already stressed graziers.

“While the State can take steps under its own legislation to allow temporary grazing of cattle on the land, under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 the Minister retains the power to effectively stop grazing,” Mr Burnett said.

“If Mr Burke decided to do this graziers would have to remove cattle immediately and if they were unable to would then be liable for civil penalties.

“The fact that the Minister has failed to rule this out shows a complete lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the situation in Queensland’s drought affected areas and is a position devoid of any empathy for primary producers already under extreme financial and emotional pressure.”

AgForce has repeatedly attempted to clarify with Mr Burke if he is open to allowing this emergency and short-term grazing to proceed and sought his assurance he will not pursue prosecution of graziers.

However, given his office’s refusal to provide such information AgForce Queensland said it must warn producers of the potential legal and financial ramifications of placing drought-affected stock on National Parks.

“AgForce strongly believes the temporary grazing access offered by State Government is a commonsense and responsible approach to dealing with the severe drought conditions impacting on more than a third of Queensland,” Mr Burnett said.

“However given Mr Burke’s position at a Federal level I must implore producers to only take up the offer if they can meet the terms and conditions outlined in the contracts and to seek their own legal advice if they are concerned,” he said.

Agforce

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