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NSW farmers call for Qld-style prosecution freeze

Beef Central, 24/04/2012

NSW Farmers has called on the NSW Government to follow the lead of the Queensland Government and stop the prosecution of farmers under native vegetation laws until the laws are improved.

One of the first acts of the incoming Newman coalition government in Queensland was to freeze existing investigations under the previous Labor Government's controversial tree-clearing legisaltion until a review of the laws and how investigations are conducted is carried out. 

In announcing the review, newly appointed Natural Resources and Mines minister Andrew Cripps said the coalition had long been concerned about its predesessor's "overly aggressive" approach to policing Vegetation Management Act breaches. 

In NSW farmers can face fines of up to $1.2 million and two years in prison for undertaking everyday farm management activities.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said the NSW Government was taking steps to fix these laws.

However, in the meantime, dozens of farmers are being treated as criminals and facing fines which could see them lose their livelihoods.

"The current laws are the biggest impediment to food production in many areas of NSW and need revisiting if we want to attract people into agriculture and revitalise rural communities," Ms Simson said in a press release issued today.

“These laws actually undermine farmers’ ability to achieve positive environmental outcomes because we have a system that works against land managers rather than with them.

“In practice simple tasks like controlling weeds and invasive species are made impossible, which is bad for the environment and bad for farmers’ bottom line.

“The Coalition Government has committed to reform native vegetation laws which is a complicated process that will take time to get right.

“It makes sense that we should place current enforcement actions on hold so that more farming families aren’t put through the courts while we wait for these issues to be resolved.”

NSW Farmers says the current native vegetation laws can create obstacles to the production of food and fibre in NSW and can have  adverse impacts on environmental outcomes as well as the social and economic wellbeing of rural communities.

"NSW Farmers is seeking a triple bottom line approach to native vegetation management which will enable land managers to get on with the business of caring for their land as well as growing the best food and fibre," its press release said.

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