Queensland Government unveils agricultural vegetation management reforms

THE Queensland Government last week unveiled reforms to Queensland's vegetation management laws that aim to deliver a range of streamlining measures under the state's vegetation management framework and contribute to the government's goal of doubling the value of Queensland's food production by 2040.

According to the government, the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 will allow sustainable vegetation management activities to occur to support the development of high value agriculture in areas with appropriate land and climate characteristics.

The Bill has been referred to the parliamentary State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee for consideration and public consultation. If passed through Parliament, the proposed amendments are expected to come into effect towards the end of 2013.

Key reforms proposed under the Bill include:

  • 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 state-wide 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.

"The Newman Government is delivering on its commitment to reduce red-tape for landowners across Queensland, boost food production and deliver jobs and strong economic benefits for the rural sector and regional communities," said Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.

"We are creating the opportunity for farming businesses to expand cropping operations and build necessary infrastructure without the burden of unnecessary regulation."

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the amendments will restore much needed balance to the state's vegetation management framework, while retaining key environmental protections.

Mr Cripps said the previous Labor government had delivered 20 years of "over-regulation of vegetation management activities" and "allowed the pendulum to swing too far towards radical green policies that threatened the ability of landholders to effectively manage their businesses and maintain productivity."

However, Mr Cripps stressed that the reforms are not a signal that the government "is relaxing environmental standards and do not give the green light for landholders to carry out indiscriminate land clearing."

"Inappropriate vegetation management practices that show no regard for the environment can still be readily detected through satellite monitoring," the Minister said.

More information regarding the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 is available from the Queensland Government's Vegetation Management website at <http://www.nrm.qld.gov.au/vegetation/vegetation-management.html>.

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