Law Reform ·

Stronger tree clearing laws passed in Queensland

04 May, 2018

Queensland Parliament last night passed the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. Here's what you need to know.

EDO Qld congratulates the Palaszczuk Government for driving the amendment to the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.

This is an important step forward for Queensland, where our ecosystems, wildlife, Reef and climate have been suffering the impacts of excessive clearing since the Newman Government administration weakened our laws.

These amendments will assist in ensuring:

  • high value regrowth vegetation will have better protection through the application of more sensible laws to define and protect these trees;
  • remnant vegetation is better protected by removing the ability to apply to clear old growth vegetation for high value agriculture and high value irrigated agricultural use;
  • better protection of our Reef from upstream sedimentation through extending protections against clearing within 50 metres of watercourses in the Burnett-Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy catchments; and
  • reintroducing the need for a Riparian Protection Permit to clear within watercourses across Queensland.

The Queensland Government has also committed to a major review of our accepted development 'self-assessable' codes, and the discontinuation of the 'thinning' code. These codes, particularly the codes for 'thinning' and 'fodder harvesting' have allowed significant clearing across the state without the normal oversight and pre-assessment of clearing subject to a permit process.

EDO Qld lawyers will be working to ensure that the review of the codes provides meaningful changes to end broadscale clearing in our state and to ensure proper assessment of the impacts and appropriateness of clearing occurs prior to the activity taking place.

We will also be continuing work to ensure that the government addresses the property maps across Queensland. Some of those maps will continue to lock in exemptions under weaker Newman Government laws; known as ‘property maps of assessable vegetation’.

EDO Qld and other conservation groups are asking that the government transparently maps the vegetation under these maps, to determine how much vegetation will remain exempt from regulation ('Category X') where it would otherwise be subject to the stronger protections being reintroduced by this government's amendments. We are asking for amendments so that these property maps have a sunset clause, and are not locking in exemptions in perpetuity regardless of advances in science, policy or changes in the environment.

We also draw attention to the need to better protect vegetation in urban and coastal areas, not just rural areas, and to protect existing prime agricultural land from other incompatible development. We support a thriving  agricultural sector in Queensland and we know that most farmers across Queensland are doing the right thing. However, it's important that all industries and development in Queensland are subject to laws that ensure we do not unduly jeopardise our environment and the livelihoods of future generations and species through inappropriate impacts to our vegetation and ecosystems.

EDO Qld thanks all those of you who have been standing up for the strengthening of our laws to stop excessive tree clearing in Queensland since they were weakened. These laws wouldn't have been changed without your tireless dedication. Sadly this work is not yet finished, but EDO Qld will be with you every step of the way to help bring back sensible regulation of excessive clearing activities in our state.

To everyone who has made their views known, keep up the great work helping to ensure our environment remains sustainable and healthy now and for future generations.

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Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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