Tree laws: farmers, environmentalists should work together and leave the politicians out of it

Greg Brown, 18/04/2018

In this contributed opinion piece, North Queensland cattle producer Greg Brown, a former Cattle Council of Australia president and AgForce Cattle board chair, argues that farmers and environmentalists should bypass Governments and work together to find agreed long-term solutions to Queensland’s tree laws.


WATCHING the management of the pre-legislation changes to the Vegetation Management Act has left me wondering why we are dealing with this important issue the same way that has failed to achieved results over the last three decades.

Greg Brown

I am left wondering why we have not realised a different approach is desperately needed.

Opponents and supporters both front up with the same patently false assertions that we are all going to starve if we can’t clear more country or that if we do clear trees the Great Barrier Reef is going to be inundated with sediment.

Certainly nobody is going to starve if trees aren’t cleared but there is a very good case for substantial areas to be cleared and developed into productive grazing or farmland.

Fundamentally we are an export nation. Expanding our productivity in a sustainable way to satisfy current and emerging markets just makes good sense.

Clearing trees also increases moisture availability and pasture growth which in turn increases infiltration and reduces runoff and erosion. Thick timber reduces groundcover which results in high soil movement. Science must be observed at all times.

The opposing and supporting arguments in relation to tree clearing have been used by the two political parties as election issue for many years. Maintaining these polarised views into the future will be to the detriment of our rural industries.

The ‘High Value Agriculture’ (HVA) concept is totally flawed as it allowed people to clear large tracts of country without any staging process.

During the term of the Beattie government the bio-regions were given the opportunity to define sustainable tree clearing guidelines.

These regional groups consisted of producers, environmental groups, government departments, aboriginal groups and community representatives plus invited technical experts.

After many meetings and vigorous debate consensus was reached.  It was agreed a certain percentage of appropriate soils on a property could be cleared on a staged basis.

Being able to continue to clear was based on proof that the clearing (and post management clearing) was at a high standard after inspection by a panel of suitably qualified people.

Unfortunately the incoming government called a halt to all tree clearing.

Another flaw with HVA process was the exaggerated land suitability, productivity and economic claims made by some people charged with the task of putting the HVA applications together.

An independent review prepared by Mr W P Thompson for the government identified major flaws and cast serious doubt on the information provided in one particular northern tree clearing application.

A permit to clear substantial areas of unsuitable soils was granted based on this flawed application and approval process.

The fact remains the Greens have a great deal of influence in relation to this debate.

I would suggest that the bush and the Greens should, as a matter of urgency, meet and come to some sort of agreement independent of the government.

Relying on absolute misinformation as a means of influencing two political parties will mean there will be no outcome for common sense for years to come.

At Beef Australia in 2015 Agforce invited a representative from the north American timber industry to present their experiences with environmental lobby groups.

From a history of enormous conflict the issue was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.

This presentation was enthusiastically received by the audience and one would wonder why we can’t replicate this process.



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  1. Ian Beale, 21/04/2018

    This follows from Joanne Rea above


    IMO applies to veg management as well – no compromise!

  2. Joanne Rea, 20/04/2018

    Any negotioation is predicated on the fact that you trust that those you are negotiating with will stick to their bargain.
    Noel Pearson has been outspoken over a number of years about promises made by green groups and then when it came to the crunch he and his community were stabbed in the back.
    The fishing industry thought they had a deal with WWF only to find they did not stand by it, and anyone in rural Australia who is silly enough to think they can negotiate with groups that have the government in their pocket will have their time wasted for years and then have agreements reneged on. Regardless of present disappointments, the way forward is through the political process and the discrediting of the appalling “science” of the green groups.

  3. Ian Beale, 20/04/2018

    Suggested Reading:

    G.J.W. Webb (2014) “Wildlife conservation: in the belly of the beast” Charles Darwin University Press

    Rupert Darwall. (2017). “Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex”. Encounter Books.

    Elizabeth Nickson (2012). “Eco-Fascists: How Radical Conservationists Are Destroying Our Natural Heritage”. Broadside Books.

    All are available from the Queensland library system.

  4. Joanne Rea, 19/04/2018

    You have got to be kidding me.

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