Without any prior notice to the community and certainly no consultation the Newman Government has decided to amend the laws protecting native vegetation in Queensland despite a written promise to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) prior to the election that his government would not do this. WWF is preparing to head up a Queensland wide campaign to stop the amendments and retain the protection of our native vegetation that not only protects wildlife, but reduces erosion and salinity, protects rivers from siltation, sequesters carbon and provide oxygen for us to breathe, helps to regulate our local climate and is a beautiful iconic part of our landscape. We need you to take action as well and email the Premier and Minister for Natural Resource Management. See email addresses below.

The economic, social and environmental costs of this Bill, if it succeeds, will reverberate down the decades long after the Newman Government has lost office and it has national ramifications. It is essential that the conservation movement engages Australians in opposing this Bill.

While many farmers may be environmentally responsible there are many others who see native vegetation only as an obstacle to greater production and it is the pressure from these farmers that is behind the changes. Minister Cripps gave a paper to farmers titled “Taking an Axe to Vegetation Laws.” The Vegetation Management Act in 2009 was the result of extensive and extended community consultation of many sectors and is designed to provide all those protective factors listed above. This legislation was the only reason that Australia was able to meet its Kyoto Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases and has proved to be essential for the protection of rare, threatened and endangered species. Australia has the highest rate of species extinction in the world and if this new law comes into being this will get worse and our greenhouse gas emissions, already the highest per capita in the world, will increase substantially.

The natural environment and its vegetation is the foundation of our society and economy and provides eco-system services which cannot be quantified, but are essential if our land is not to be degraded to the point of being unproductive. Sustaining natural vegetation is about sustaining the land’s ability to support us.

The nation has spent many millions of dollars, through Landcare and other schemes, repairing erosion and salinity from past poor farming practices and yet this Bill is proposing changes that will increase the erosion/ salinity problem. Erosion also means siltation of rivers, another cost, and run –off to the Great Barrier Reef, an icon that is already struggling to survive.

Gecko strongly objects to:-

  • The intent of the Bill, which is all about increased productivity and is clearly not about sustainability.
  • That rare, threatened and endangered species will be faced with extinction under this Bill.
  • High value regrowth vegetation on freehold and indigenous land which has not been cleared since 1994 being moved into Category X and would no longer be protected.
  • A Minister being provided with new discretionary powers, without any economic feasibility or impact assessment or consultation with the public nor any criteria to guide this power.
  • The total lack of public consultation prior to the Bill’s drafting.
  • The lack of science-based knowledge as a foundation for the Bill.
  • The lack of any definitions of sustainable land use and environmental clearing leaving the interpretation of these terms to be entirely arbitrary.
  • The use of ‘mistaken belief’ as a defence by farmers for illegal clearing. If this excuse was allowed in any other jurisdiction the legal system would be in chaos.
  • The proposal to allow farmers to self-assess whether clearing is permitted or not when there is no guarantee that they have the knowledge and skills to undertake such assessments.
  • The removal of monitoring requirements which will mean there are no checks on land degradation.

Gecko has written to the Premier and the Minister for Natural Resources stating that the Bill is ill conceived and not in the best interests of the people of Queensland or Australia and should be withdrawn. We have also written to the Federal Minister for Environment because of the national implications of these changes.

If there are difficulties (so-called green tape) with the current Vegetation Act these should be put out to full public consultation and any changes must be based on independent scientific knowledge, not the political aspirations of one sector of the Queensland economy.

The changes to this law is just one of so many which will leave our environment unprotected from the rampant development at all costs that is the 4 pillar economy, Agriculture, Resources, Tourism and Construction, of the Newman Government. The environment on which all of these depend does not even get a mention.

Action Needed:

Please email the Premier, Campbell Newman, thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au and the Minister for Natural Resource Management, Minister Cripps, nrm@ministerial.qld.gov.au,  and tell them of your concerns.