The Queensland Parliament yesterday passed amendments to legislation that will give starving cattle temporary access to national parks and wind back some of the environmental restrictions imposed upon rural landholders by the previous Labor State Government.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said reforms to Queensland’s vegetation management framework passed yesterday will restore balance to vegetation laws and “marked the end of years of vilification of the rural sector by the rural sector by the previous Labor Government”.
He said reforms struck an important balance between agricultural production and environmental protection, and ended a “sorry chapter” in public policy.
Mr Cripps said the reforms will give landholders more control over their land and allow them to sustainably grow their farm businesses, while retaining key environmental protections.
Central components of the new legislation are:
• The introduction of new clearing purposes under the Act for high-value agriculture and environmental works (such as land rehabilitation);
• The removal of regrowth regulations on freehold and indigenous land, but the retention of controls on regrowth control on leasehold land and in reef watercourses;
• New provisions to allow for the creation of self-assessable codes for routine management activities such as weed and pest management, fodder harvesting and thinning;
• The creation of simplified statewide vegetation maps to clearly define areas where regulations will apply, and
• The removal of the guide to sentencing under the existing Vegetation Management Act to ensure more consistent and equitable penalties in cases of inappropriate clearing.
Queensland Parliament also last night passed an emergency grazing amendment to the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
It comes in the face of stern opposition to the plan by Federal environment minister Tony Burke, who has previously blocked the Victorian Government attempts to allow grazing in alpine national parks as a bushfire mitigation tool, and has accused the Qld Govt of trying to wreck conservation areas.
National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said the worsening drought crisis meant immediate action was needed.
“As the dire animal welfare situation facing our graziers worsens, the Newman Government will give them a lifeline by allowing temporary access for cattle to suitable state land,” Mr Dickson said.
“We won’t stand by and watch while graziers are forced to destroy their own stock when we have land and feed available.
“This is a commonsense solution which has wide support from the Australian people and organisations including the RSPCA, Animals Australia and AgForce.
“I call upon the Federal Environment Minister to reconsider his position on this vital animal welfare issue and support the Newman Government’s efforts to keep cattle from starving or being shot by graziers left with no other choice.”
Mr Dickson said Mr Burke should immediately get on a plane and see for himself the immensity of the problem facing cattlemen across Queensland’s north and west.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said the amendment, which was passed as part of the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013, would see emergency hardship grazing authorities issued over specific areas which had been selected on the basis of their previous grazing history and their proximity to suffering properties.
“Allowing graziers access to state owned land will go some way to alleviating their current catastrophic situation,” Mr Cripps said.
“The Gillard Government needs to relent, cooperate with this initiative and not be distracted by extreme green objections which demonstrate no understanding of the plight of northern graziers robbed of their markets and stricken by drought.
“Queensland’s graziers are the backbone of the nation’s cattle industry and the Newman Government is determined to protect their livelihoods as we work through this crisis together.”