Habitat Protection reinstated by Labor

Queensland Government moves to reinstate habitat protection measures axed by the LNP

The Palaszczuk Government delivered on another election commitment today with the introduction into Parliament of laws to reinstate vegetation protection measures stripped away by the former LNP government.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who introduced the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (the Bill), said Labor’s record on tree-clearing stacks up.

“Labor recognised in the past that tree-clearing rates in Queensland were unacceptable, we took action and we got results,” the Deputy Premier said.

“The former LNP government inherited sound, effective vegetation management laws and gutted them.

“The Palaszczuk Government promised to restore Queensland’s nation-leading vegetation management laws. This Bill delivers on that promise.”

The Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study for 2012-2014 (SLATS) showed that the annual rate of clearing increased from 153,638 hectares before the LNP was elected to a new level where almost 300,000 hectares are now being cleared every year.

Environment Minister Steven Miles said this demonstrated that tree-clearing rates in Queensland had once again reached unacceptable levels.

“That’s an area more than twice the size of Brisbane or 10 times the size of the city of Rockhampton being cleared every single year,” Dr Miles said.

“We’re seeing forests and trees that provide habitat for vulnerable native wildlife like koalas being bulldozed at alarming rates. That simply has to stop.

“The reckless approach of the LNP to tree-clearing also puts at risk our beloved Great Barrier Reef and the livelihoods of so many Queenslanders who depend on it. It is riparian vegetation that holds riverbanks together, that keeps sediment on land and out of the Great Barrier Reef.

“This Bill will help protect the Great Barrier Reef by extending the protection of regrowth vegetation in watercourse areas from 3, to all 6 Reef catchments.

“We also know that land-clearing is a key contributor to greenhouse gas pollution. Queensland generates some 36 million tonnes of emissions every year by land clearing alone. That more than wipes out the Federal Government’s expensive, ineffective direct action fund and puts in doubt Australia’s ability to meet our international carbon pollution reduction targets.
“At a time when the rest of the world is reducing their emissions, Queensland is driving Australia’s emissions up thanks to the LNP’s land-clearing laws.

The Bill reinstates the vegetation management framework in place prior to 2012 by:

  • reinstating the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
  • removing provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated high value agriculture; and
  • reinstating compliance provisions for the reverse onus of proof and removing the ‘mistake of fact’ defence for vegetation clearing offences

In order to address the risk of panic clearing, the Bill includes retrospective conditions that will require restoration of any unlawful clearing that occurs between the introduction and passage of the Bill.