Proposed tough tree-clearing laws in Queensland have failed to win the endorsement of a cross-parliamentary committee.
The Queensland Parliament’s Agriculture and Environment Committee has spent the past few months running the rule over the Palaczcuk Labor Government’s proposed Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.
The committee’s task was to consider the policy outcomes that would be achieved by the legislation, and its impacts on the rights and liberties of individuals.
The key changes included in the proposed bill include:
- Prohibiting clearing for high value agriculture;
- Reinstating protections for high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
- Extending protections for regrowth vegetation in watercourses to more catchments (Burnett-Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef);
- Reinstating the riverine protection framework;
- Reinstating the reverse onus of proof; and
- Removing the “mistake of fact” defence for vegetation clearing offences.
In examining the proposed legislation, the Committee received over 680 submissions, while 140 individual witnesses gave evidence at hearings in Cairns, Townsville, Emerald, Bundaberg, Gympie, Charleville and Roma.
In handing down its report late last week, the committee said it could not agree to recommend that the bill be passed.
The committee did, however, on “a number of sensible recommendations” to improve the bill.
Their recommendations included removing the clause reversing the onus of proof, and calling on the relevant ministers to provide more details on how affected parties will be consulted, and how they are working to improve the accuracy of vegetation mapping.
The committee said it was unable to reach a majority decision as to whether the Bill be passed. It did, however, agree unanimously with the following recommendations, the report said:
The committee recommends that the Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines explains to the House, during the second reading debate on the Bill, the consultation process that will be undertaken on the updated self-assessable codes, including details of
who will be consulted.
The committee recommends that the Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines provides an update, during the second reading debate on the Bill, on the steps, including the associated timescales, that will be taken:
– to improve the accuracy of vegetation mapping, and
– to proactively engage with landholders to provide them with updated property maps of assessable vegetation which correct any inaccuracies.
The committee recommends that the element of clause 6 of the Bill, which inserts new section 67A into the Vegetation Management Act 1999 to reverse the onus of proof in relation to vegetation clearing offences, be omitted.
The committee recommends that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection engage with the property, resources and development sectors to assess and establish the full impact of the proposed amendments to the environmental offsets regime in Queensland.
The committee recommends that the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef informs the House, during the second reading debate on the Bill, of the outcome of the assessment of the impacts, including potential costs, of the proposed amendments to the environmental offset regime and if any actions will be taken.
To view the full report click here