Land clearing Bill essential to protect Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and climate
3 June 2016
There were almost 700 submissions on the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016! Well done to everyone who made a submission!!
The Bill was referred to the Queensland Parliament’s Agriculture and Environment Committee for inquiry and report on 17 March.
Public Committee hearings were held throughout the state in May and June. EDO Qld’s Law Reform Solicitor Revel Pointon gave evidence at the Brisbane hearing on 3 June.
EDO Qld does not support the position of the Queensland Law Society on the vegetation management laws.
The committee is due to report to the House on Thursday 30 June.
The Queensland Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 is fulfilment of a 2015 election commitment by the Palaszczuk government to reinstate vegetation protection laws weakened under the Newman government. See here for history and background.
This Bill is essential to ensuring the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and our climate are protected from the devastating impacts of broadscale clearing.
EDO Qld understands farmers and landholders need to do essential or routine maintenance clearing on their properties. That clearing won’t be restricted by this Bill.
Reinstatement of “reversal of the onus of proof” sounds complicated, but our legal opinion is that this reinstatement is nothing to fear for responsible landholders. This was part of the law for years, without even one example of a problem, until the Newman changes.
All “reversal of the onus of proof” means is that, unless proven otherwise, a landholder is considered responsible for any clearing on their own land. Just like if the car you owned was to run a red light, it would be assumed that you were driving, unless you could show otherwise.
This Bill is important to protect Queensland’s ecosystems and wildlife because it:
- reinstates the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
- removes provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated agriculture;
- broadens protection of riparian vegetation, especially in the Great Barrier Reef catchments of Burnett Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef;
- reinstates the application of the riverine protection permit framework to the destruction of vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring; and
- reinstates a broader requirement for environmental offsets to be required for any residual impact, not just ‘significant’ impacts as is currently provided for in offsets legislation (and has led to only 1 offset being registered for vegetation impacts since 2014).