In just over seven months, landholders have notified the Queensland government they intend to clear more than 270,000 hectares of bushland and forest.
More than half (55%, 150,930 hectares) is in Great Barrier Reef catchments, raising fears of increased levels of sediment and nutrients washing onto coral going through unprecedented, back-to-back mass bleaching.
Much of the land people have earmarked for clearing is home to 142 threatened species such as koalas.
“There is a Tsunami of habitat loss in the pipeline in Queensland,” said WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor, who analysed the figures.
“Based on these notifications, the rate at which we are losing wildlife habitat and ecosystems shows no sign of slowing.
“Tree-clearing in Queensland is excessive,” Dr Taylor said.
93% of the total area notified falls under just four self-assessable codes: thinning (58%), treatment of encroachment (18%), forestry (10%) and fodder harvest (7%).
Thinning allows the bulldozing of up to 75% of trees in a forest, at unlimited scales, with no permit or approval required.
“We need safeguards to stop these irresponsible levels of habitat destruction,” Dr Taylor said.
“The Queensland Government may have been blocked from fixing the weak laws, but they can still tighten the codes without amending the law.
“They commissioned a study last year which said the codes are bad and need tightening. They need to put those recommendations into effect without delay,” he said.
• Between 20 July 2016 to 28 Feb 2017, landholders notified that they intend to clear about 273,000ha of remnant or high value regrowth bushland in Queensland.
• Of the area notified to be cleared, 150,930 hectares (55%) are in Great Barrier Reef catchments and the remainder 122,160 hectares (45%) include habitats of threatened native species and threatened ecosystems.
• This is approaching the scale of the total area cleared in 2014-15 of 296,000 hectares, revealed in the Queensland Government’s SLATS report.
• The area notified for clearing under self-assessable codes tripled from January to February 2017. This was due in part to one landholder who notified about clearing the same large area under two different codes resulting in the area being counted twice. However, after removing this property, there was still a jump of about 50% from Jan to Feb from 36,000 to 53,000 hectares.
Site where the Queensland Government posts data on notifications here.
Read Dr Taylor’s full analysis here.
Map produced by Dr Martin Taylor showing location of clearing notifications:
Figure 4. Locations and types of the 315 properties where SAC notifications exceed 10 ha. An interactive version of this map can be accessed here.
Mark Symons, WWF-Australia Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, email@example.com