WWF attacks 'panic clearing'

WWF attacks 'panic clearing'


Farm Online News
The Labor government committed to tighten Vegetation Management Act guidelines when it won the 2015 state election. <i>- Picture: JON REID.</i>

The Labor government committed to tighten Vegetation Management Act guidelines when it won the 2015 state election. - Picture: JON REID.

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ANTI-farmer group WWF has seized on images of what it claims is 1000 hectares of blackbutt forest that has been "panic cleared".

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ANTI-farmer group WWF has seized on images of what it claims is 1000 hectares of blackbutt forest that has been "panic cleared" east of Augathella.

The extremist green group claims it is an example of what is happening on farmland across western Queensland.

It is unclear if the clearing at Augathella is a breach of the Vegetation Management Act (VMA).

However, the WWF is hoping to capitalise on the incident to pressure the Palaszczuk government to put further restrictions on how landholders manage vegetation.

The WWF campaign aims to force the Palaszczuk government to remove amendments made to the VMA by the previous LNP government which gave landholders commonsense flexibility in how they managed vegetation.

Queensland Country Life understands while there is strong support from Labor's green-entrenched left faction, which includes deputy premier Jackie Trad and controversial Ipswich MP Jo-Ann Miller, the minority Labor government is stymied from delivering pre-election commitments because it would require the support of pro-farmer Speaker Peter Wellington and the Katter Party.

Labor moderates including Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham and Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne are also understood to be reluctant to again antagonise rural industry, based on the effectiveness of the amended VMA.

Fairfax Media's Brisbane Times website reported on Tuesday night that the WWF was questioning the response of the Queensland government after reporting some 4900ha of scrub had been cleared near Augathella since February 2015.

WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor said a 4938ha portion of remnant blackbutt forest near Augathella included 354ha of "endangered brigalow forest" and 2593ha of scrubland, classed as "of concern".

"It's brigalow-blackbutt forest and it has all been cleared," Mr Taylor told the Brisbane Times.

"This is just a huge area of remnant forest that is supposed to have been banned to this type of broad-scale clearing back in 2006.

"But we are seeing this pop up all over the state now.

"And this is the just the worst instance we have seen in the past year.

"What we are worried about is that this may represent the panic clearing that comes when the government changes and commits to bringing back the stronger legislation we had in 2012.

"But they have (not) done anything yet. That's the problem."

Dr Taylor said WWF research showed four threatened species could be in trouble due to the land cleared near Augathella.

This included the eastern star finch, the Woma python, the Yakka skink and the painted honeyeater.

The Yakka skink last week temporarily halted Adani's Carmichael coal mine.

WWF's own analysis shows that 25 per cent of the 4900ha is mulga, which can be used as fodder for livestock.

The analysis of the aerial photography shows 2600ha of the bushland was "of concern" and - not mulga - while a further 1020ha was "mulga selective fodder" and also classed as "of concern".

A further 354ha was classified as "endangered brigalow", meaning a total of 3967ha from the 4938ha was rated as "of concern".

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham told the Brisbane Times that the specific complaint at Augathella was being investigated by his department.

"On the specific issue at Augathella, I am advised that the Department of Natural Resources is currently reviewing satellite imagery of changes in vegetation on a property in this area," Dr Lynham said.

"More generally, I am committed to taking a considered approach to implementing protections that will promote sustainable agriculture, while addressing increases in carbon emissions and the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef."

Dr Lynham said the Palaszczuk government "would not rush" to introduce the restrictions it promised at the 2015 election, but did not say when.

"The Palaszczuk government will meet its commitment to restoring protections, but unlike the previous LNP government, it won't be a rushed decision," he said.

"I have been listening to all the stakeholders on this issue, including the WWF and AgForce, and I will consult fully before introducing any significant legislative amendments to the Vegetation Management Act."

Dr Lynham said he believed most landholders were responsible.

"But I have made it clear that the government will not tolerate illegal clearing."

It is also the stance taken by farm groups including AgForce, which says illegal clearing by landholders is unacceptable and will not be defended.

The story WWF attacks 'panic clearing' first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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