WWF today welcomed the decision of the Australian Government to intervene in the clearing of thousands of native trees on Kingvale Station on Cape York.
The federal Department of Environment and Energy has “deemed” a referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – which may result in the clearing requiring approval under Commonwealth law.
A clearing permit was issued in 2014 by the Queensland Department of State Development. WWF understands that the Australian Government asked the applicant to lodge a referral before it took the action this week.
Kingvale Station is located in the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef. Tree-clearing, which is usually undertaken by large bulldozers, leads to large volumes of topsoil being washed into watercourses and from there into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon where it chokes coral and sea grasses.
Numerous Australian and Queensland Government reports, as well as numerous reports by scientific bodies, have identified large-scale tree-clearing as a significant cause of the declining environmental health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian and Queensland Government have both committed to reverse this.
WWF-Australia Conservation Director-Sustainable Futures Paul Toni said the decision was a good one.
“We welcome this decision of the Australian Government and congratulate Minister Frydenberg on the decision his Department has made,” Mr Toni said.
“The Government’s own reports show that top soil and sediment flowing to the Reef has nearly tripled since Europeans arrived in Queensland.
“Large-scale tree-clearing releases large amounts of greenhouse gases. The recent resurgence is significantly undermining the Australian Government’s Direct Action plan.
“Tree-clearing also kills large numbers of native animals and plants including many Australian Government-listed threatened species.”
The intervention underlines the need for state tree-clearing laws to be reinstated, to avoid a large numbers of referrals under Commonwealth law.
In 2012, laws that had protected Queensland trees for nearly two decades were scrapped – and panic tree-clearing began. Since then, the rate of tree destruction has doubled.
Laws are currently being considered by the Queensland Parliament to restore controls over tree-clearing in the state.
These laws were promised to UNESCO last year - in a joint submission from the Australian and Queensland governments - to keep the Reef off the in danger list.
WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett