QUEENSLAND Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham last week introduced proposed new vegetation management laws to State Parliament, which he said will reinstate a responsible vegetation management and protection framework for Queensland.
The changes proposed as part of the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 reinstate the vegetation management controls repealed in 2013 and will increase protection for high-value regrowth and remnant vegetation and boost protection for important habitats, including waterways leading to the Great Barrier Reef.
"These laws will protect our climate, our wildlife and our Great Barrier Reef, and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on the Reef," Dr Lynham said. "Landholders will still be able to maintain their land and clear fodder trees to feed their stock, and the majority of landholders will continue to do the right thing, as they do now."
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the State Government's policy was based on science and would maintain biodiversity, reduce land degradation, protect water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the sustainable use of land.
"The changes proposed in this legislation are backed by science and have been expertly prepared by the Queensland Herbarium and peer reviewed by the CSIRO," Ms Enoch said.
"In 2015/16, close to 400,000 hectares of vegetation was cleared under the former LNP Government – that's more than twice the area of Brisbane and seven times the size of Rockhampton.
"If the current clearing rate continues, it will drive native wildlife to extinction, put jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef at risk, drive up Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent Australia from meeting its international climate commitments."
Among the changes, the proposed laws will:
- Ban broad-scale clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture;
- Change the definition of high-value regrowth vegetation - this term will now apply to vegetation not cleared in the last 15 years rather than since 31 December 1989;
- Increase, up to almost treble, the maximum penalties courts could impose for illegal clearing to more than half-a-million-dollars;
- Give compliance officers more powers and enforcement tools;
- Require farmers to get approval to thin vegetation; and
- Still allow farmers to harvest fodder trees to feed livestock.
Dr Lynham also announced the release of more accurate vegetation maps for the entire state, which he said reflect the best available sciences and will support landholders to manage their land.
"Landholders will continue to have certainty about what they will be able to clear in the future because we are retaining Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV)," he said.
Some aspects of the proposed legislation take effect immediately, and the Bill will now go to committee hearings, including public hearings and submissions.
More information is available from the Department Natural Resources, Mines and Energy website at <https://www.dnrme.qld.gov.au/land-water/initiatives/vegetation-management-laws>.