The Queensland Government is set to introduce laws it says will stop “skyrocketing” tree-clearing rates in the state.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the laws would close “loopholes” created by the Newman government.
The previous government relaxed rules in its changes to the Vegetation Management Act, allowing the clearing of native vegetation for high-value agriculture projects.
It also introduced a series of self-assessable codes for landholders to manage clearing in certain areas.
Labor promised to tighten restrictions at the state election, and the detail of its changes have been eagerly anticipated by both environmental and farming groups.
“We are reinstating the provisions of the legislation that Labor had put in, that we knew worked, that we knew had decreased tree-clearing rates in Queensland,” Ms Trad said.
Ms Trad said protection would also be extended for vegetation in riparian zones of the Great Barrier Reef catchment.
“Currently the protections are only around three catchments, and we’re extending it to all six,” Ms Trad said.
“We know the less vegetation in the ground the more sediment runoff into the reef, the poorer the water quality, and the less healthy the reef is.”
Asked if she was worried about a backlash from farming communities, Ms Trad said there would be a backlash if the Government did not follow through on its election promise.
She also warned landholders against so-called panic clearing.
“If illegal clearing happens after the introduction of the bill, we will be looking at retrospective measures to make sure that they reinstate vegetation to a larger area than the area they cleared,” Ms Trad said.
Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has spoken out against changes to the Vegetation Management Act, arguing it would hurt Indigenous people wanting to start agricultural businesses.
He urged crossbenchers to vote against it.
Independent Cairns MP Rob Pyne has said he would be supportive of changing the Vegetation Management Act.
“But I’ve got concerns around how that’ll impact on some people,” Mr Pyne said.
Rob Katter said the Katter’s Australian Party would “absolutely” oppose the laws.
The LNP has also vowed to oppose any changes, meaning Labor will need the support of both Mr Pyne and independent Billy Gordon to pass the laws.
Source – ABC