An analysis by WWF-Australia shows tree clearing continues to plague Great Barrier Reef catchments with landholders notifying, in just the last four months, that they will clear another 70,000 hectares.
That’s on top of 108,000 hectares cleared in Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2014-15.
More than 40% of clearing notifications received since mid-July are for Reef catchments.
This analysis comes just days after reports that UNESCO, which is monitoring the Reef’s health, has called government officials to Paris amid concerns over the rate of tree clearing. A State Government register shows that between July 20 and November 30, landholders notified the government they intend to clear 165,270 hectares across the state, including 68,479 hectares (41%) in Reef catchments.
Of the reef catchment land to be cleared, 51,702 hectares (75%) will be “thinned” under a self-assessable code.
This allows at least 50% of trees to be cleared.
WWF-Australia scientist Dr Martin Taylor said the thinning code allowed the return of broad scale tree clearing by stealth.
“To put this in perspective, the 70,000 hectares notified for clearing in just four months is equivalent to placing eighty D9 bulldozers side by side and bulldozing a path from Brisbane all the way to Cairns,” Dr Taylor said.
“Bulldozing trees increases the sediment that chokes coral and sea grass.
“Tree clearing is out of control. If we are to protect the Reef, if we are to save threatened species, if we want our kids to have bush to enjoy we must do more to protect trees,” Dr Taylor said.
The map below shows properties in Reef catchments that have made notifications to clear since July 20 and the picture, taken in July, shows clearing, notified as “thinning”, in Central Queensland
Mark Symons, WWF-Australia Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, firstname.lastname@example.org