The Palaszczuk government is using the latest Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study (SLATS) to justify controversial new vegetation management laws.
Acting Premier Jackie Trad today released the 2014-15 Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study (SLATS) which shows almost 300,000 hectares of vegetation was removed in the 12 months covered by the report.
The latest attack on agriculture follows Thursday’s march in Brisbane by farmers opposing the draconian new laws, which they say will stifle agriculture resulting in job losses and higher food prices for consumers.
“The latest SLATS report confirms tree clearing is continuing at the unacceptable level of almost 300,000 hectares per year since the LNP gutted Labor’s responsible tree clearing laws in 2013,” Ms Trad said.
“Alarmingly, 108,000 hectares was cleared in Great Barrier Reef catchment areas in 2014-15. This represents more than a third of the vegetation cleared statewide and requires immediate action.”
The Vegetation Management and (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill is expected to be introduced to parliament sometime this month. If passed in its current form, the legislation would be retrospective to March 17.
The controversial laws are widely seen as pay back from Labor to the extreme green movement for it support during the January 2015 Queensland election campaign.
Despite being heavily criticised by farm groups and legal groups, Ms Trad said the Palaszczuk’s government’s proposed vegetation management laws were effective and balanced.
“They will protect the environment and allow our agricultural industry to thrive with the majority of farmers unaffected by the reinstatement of our nation leading laws,” Ms Trad said.
She uses the arguably misleading argument that the profitability of agriculture increased $2 billion under a decade of Labor’s tree clearing laws.
“The LNP should stop scaremongering and playing politics. They need to join us in safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef before it’s too late.”
AgForce chief executive officer Charles Burke said the government was misrepresenting vegetation management in Queensland.
“The SLATS report does not tell the whole story of vegetation in Queensland and it is clearly unreasonable to use just one part of the science to prosecute a political imperative,” Mr Burke said.
“The sole use of the SLATS report is akin to measuring how many people mowed their lawn today.
“We need to know how the true change in vegetation over the period and that includes knowing where vegetation has increased particularly through thickening and encroachment.
“Despite the government’s arguments, our own research shows the previous study period showed a net increase in vegetation.”
Deputy opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the release of the SLATS report proved Labor was continuing to ignore warnings from Queensland farmers, who argued proposed vegetation laws would have a devastating effect on their livelihoods.
“Our farmers are already facing the impacts of one of the worst droughts on record,” Ms Frecklington said.
“The last thing they need are further setbacks brought about by a Labor government that should be supporting them.
“Labor’s proposal will take rights away from our farmers and make them criminals on their own land.
“It’s time the Palaszczuk Labor government started listening to Queenslanders and supporting our farmers rather than hindering them.”
Environment Minister Steven Miles also continued his campaign against agriculture, saying the current level of land clearing was threatening the Great Barrier Reef.
“These figures ram home how urgent it is that we reduce clearing right across Queensland, and especially the Great Barrier Reef catchments,” Dr Miles said.
“This vegetation is vital in reef catchments because it holds riverbanks together, meaning sediment isn’t flushed onto the reef.
“Sediment making its way to the reef, settles on the coral and suffocates it. It also clouds the water, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the coral and both of these reduce the ability of the coral to be resilient to other threats.”
The SLATS report shows 29pc of the mapped woody vegetation clearing had previously been cleared one or more times since 1988. It says 91pc of cleared woody vegetation was replaced by pasture with the remaining 9pc replaced by crop, forestry, mining, infrastructure and settlements.