WWF-Australia today called on the Queensland Government to honour its election commitment to protect Queensland’s bushland, as a new report suggests panic tree-clearing across the state.
A major investigative report by WWF’s Dr Martin Taylor entitled Bushland destruction rapidly increasing in Queensland, was released today.
As part of the report, WWF has developed a map showing 94 locations where over the last three years native vegetation has been cleared or approved for clearing since the previous Queensland Government watered down tree-clearing laws.
The current Queensland Government made an election commitment to reverse these changes, but is yet to deliver.
“This is Queensland’s tree-clearing map of shame,” said WWF-Australia scientist Dr Martin Taylor.
“Throughout the state, bushland previously protected is being destroyed.
“Much of the clearing is in Reef catchments. This risks increased levels of soil and chemicals being washed into the Reef lagoon at a time when Australia has promised UNESCO big reductions in these threats.
“Sadly, as the map shows, the destruction has continued on the current Queensland government’s watch – even though it promised to reinstate landclearing protection,” he said.
The Bushland Destruction report finds:
- Native vegetation cleared annually has more than tripled from about 78,000 hectares in 2009-10 to about 278,000 hectares in 2013-14.
- An independent assessor found serious flaws in the new ‘High Value Agriculture’ provision that is supposed to allow clearing only for cropping and irrigated pasture. There are no checks to confirm the cropping actually takes place and approvals have been issued over high value habitat for threatened species.
- Clearing of known ‘High Value Agriculture’ approvals will produce CO2 emissions of at least 11.7 million tonnes, which is equivalent to 40% of the 28 million tonnes of carbon farming abatement recently purchased by the Commonwealth’s Emissions Reduction Fund.
- 125,000 hectares of vegetation mapped as remnant, including endangered regional ecosystems, was remapped after 2012 to remove all clearing controls. It appears such drastic changes to maps are not required to be approved by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
- The new self-assessable thinning code allows landholders to use bulldozers to clear as much as 75% of trees in previously intact forests. The code sets arbitrary thresholds for tree densities which are not based on peer-reviewed science. Eighteen endangered and 55 of-concern ecosystems can be cleared in this way.
“The thinning code is broadscale clearing by stealth,” said Dr Taylor.
“It is not supported by science and makes a mockery of the fundamental objectives of the Vegetation Management Act to conserve native vegetation and biodiversity.
The thinning code should be revoked as soon as possible.
“We have discovered many instances of clearing since mid-2014, some involving large areas, that suggest panic clearing is underway.
“The Department of Natural Resources and Mines has advised that 64 cases of unexplained clearing of native vegetation have been allocated for further investigation.
Late yesterday the Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham announced a hasty 5-point plan purporting to address tree clearing concerns.
Mr Taylor said: “The Minister’s 5 point plan amounts to window dressing as land clearing spirals out of control again, killing tens of millions of native animals. This plan will not deliver the government’s election promise”.
“WWF calls on the Queensland Government to deliver on its election commitment. As a first step, the Government should declare areas of proven high conservation value or vulnerable to degradation off limits to clearing, as a circuit breaker, to allow consultation on strengthening tree-clearing laws,” he said.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571