Community Cabinet Briefing Paper-Vegetation Management Act (1999)

1. Minister/Agency Department of Environment and Heritage
2. Topic title Clearing of Mature Regrowth of Threatened Plant Communities Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013
3. Background Queensland State Government passed the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act (2013) late last year.  The aim of the Bill, as stated by Government, is to reduce red tape and regulatory burden on landowners, business and government.  The Amendment Bill repealed critical regrowth regulations on freehold and indigenous lands, removed enforcement and compliance provisions, removed significant and historic multifactorial vegetation mapping and introduced self-assessable codes.  While removing red tape and streamlining development processes, the Amendment Bill significantly weakens the protection of critical vegetation on watercourses and exposes hundreds of thousands of hectares of high value regrowth vegetation to broad-scale land clearing.
4. Issue Summary Gecko is very concerned about the impact of the changes to the Vegetation Management Act (VMA) 1999 with have on Queensland’s significant biodiversity.  As a nation, Australia has the highest rate of mammalian extinction in the world.  Only recently has broad-scale land clearing been phased out in Queensland (2006) our environment has had little time to recover from such great losses.  The Amendment Act presents a raft of highly concerning issues for our wildlife, however for the purpose of this Briefing Paper Gecko will focus on the allowance of clearing of high value regrowth vegetation, vegetation that has not been cleared since 1989, on freehold and indigenous land. Pertaining to the  issue raised, Gecko has concerns about:

·       The impact of this potential clearing on the longevity of our native wildlife;

·       The impact of this potential clearing on our waterways and ecosystem services;

·       The greenhouse emissions released from this clearing and how this will effect Australia’s ability to adhere to agreed carbon emission targets;

·       The monitoring of clearing of high value regrowth vegetation;

·       The monitoring of clearing high value remnant vegetation;

·       The scale of potential clearing – we believe this opens up hundreds of thousands of hectares of vegetation throughout Queensland.

It is of great concern to Gecko that many critical wildlife refuges are on freehold lands.  Wildlife relies on connectivity between freehold land to migrate, breed and respond to changes in weather and climate. Increasing pressures of commercial activity placed on our national parks are limiting the utility of conservation actions. We believe if significant high value regrowth vegetation is cleared many native species, both plant and animal, will face local extinction.  The extinction of our iconic wildlife will not support Queensland’s tourism industry nor provide a strong pillar for our economy.
5. Key Points / Issues 1. The Act as amended  will facilitate  the  removal of significant areas of high value regrowth vegetation which will result in the local extinction of our iconic wildlife, jeopardising both our ecosystems and economy. 2. The Act as amended  will facilitate the  removal of mature regrowth vegetation will destroy critical wildlife refuges, limit the movement of wildlife – movement critical for maintaining healthy populations, and reduce landscape connectivity.
6. Requests

1.     Gecko requests the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013 is reviewed and reconsidered with a view of reinstating the amended regrowth regulations on freehold and indigenous land for the clearing high value regrowth (native vegetation that has not been cleared since 31 December 1989).

At a minimum clearing is to be recorded in baseline documentation  and monitored and wildlife monitoring conducted.  Monitoring of clearing, habitat loss and local extinctions will enable the effective listing of threatened species and direct conservation management action. This could be done through an accelerated SLATS review program.

2.     Should the regrowth regulations not be reinstated, limits of regrowth clearing need to be imposed to maintain wildlife refuges and landscape connectivity.

At a minimum clearing is to be documented and reported and wildlife monitoring conducted.  Monitoring of clearing, habitat loss and local extinctions will enable the effective listing of threatened species and direct conservation management action.

Submitted by Rochelle James, Management Committee. Lois Levy, Campaign Coordinator. Rose Adams, Secretary