New laws show complete disregard for Downs farmers' concerns
DESPITE months of protests, public meetings and regional outcry, Queensland's farmers' "dark day" arrived with the government passing controversial land-clearing laws.
Southern Downs farmers say they're worried about losing control of their land, calling it an "inner-city vote grab". The new laws threaten to put an end to broad-scale clearing of remnant vegetation for high-value agriculture and expand the definition of high-value regrowth.
Sheep farmer Murray Schroder lives out on the traprock between Stanthorpe and Inglewood.
"It's the regrowth they want to stop us clearing," he said.
"But common sense says we should be able to control it.
"Whoever put these laws forward doesn't understand the bush.
"Politicians are just trying to appease city folk who don't like seeing trees cut down."
Farmer Peter Reimers from Stanthorpe said if you wanted to clear a block in Ipswich for something that might make people some money, they'd let you do it.
"There does need to be a balance," he said.
"Full-scale clearing is not sustainable, but no clearing is detrimental as well, to farms and livelihood.
"We want trees and we need trees, but it should be up to us to control them."
James Lister speaks out
THE new vegetation management law was rammed through the parliament at almost midnight on Thursday.
While it is important to achieve a balance to protect both our native vegetation and the rights of farmers, there was no need to change the law - it was fair the way it was.
I am angry that One Nation and Katter preferences put this Labor Government into power. If Labor wasn't in power, these terrible laws wouldn't have happened.
The new law takes away the right of our hardworking farmers to sustainably manage their properties their own way. They know their land better than anyone and they know how to manage it for now and future generations.
The clearing and thinning of mulga, for instance, is essential for many farmers, however the new law, along with the soon-to-come regulations, will severely limit this. And the inability to clear some country for high-value agriculture like lucerne for cattle or fruit and vegetable crops will hurt our local farmers and our local small businesses and workers.
And now farmers' property can be entered by the tree police, and property confiscated without a warrant.
I fought hard against these new laws. I met with farmers who were protesting and spoke four times in parliament this week pointing out the unfairness and the flaws in the science, data and assumptions behind the bill.
Farmer Sandy Miller said his property west of Warwick had already undergone extensive vegetation mapping.
"What happens to that now?" he asked.
"Will it all be rescinded? Does it all need to be done again?
"There's so much confusion surrounding all of this - it's really difficult to find anything concrete out about what the laws will actually mean."
Southern Downs farmer Mark said he was surprised Queensland politicians hadn't learned anything from the mistakes made by the Carr Government in New South Wales.
"And it's still happening down there," he said.
"State Environmental Planning Policy 46, which was introduced in 1995 by then NSW Premier Bob Carr, decimated property values overnight and meant any land with native trees on it could not be cleared for productive agricultural purposes."
Mark said this meant despite the rising costs of living, farmers couldn't expand their agricultural enterprises to make more money.
"If there was land you wanted to clear for my grazing and crops, there was so much red tape to go through," he said. "It makes me feel a bit sick when I read the articles about what Labor want to do here, I've seen and heard it all before.
Mark said it was okay if the majority of the population wanted to save the flora and fauna of the state.
"But if that's the way it has to be then at least compensate the landowners whose livelihoods are affected by these laws," he said.
"If I let a paddock go a for a year or two, then want to reuse it, is it going to be a crime to clear it out?"
Condamine Headwaters Landcare Group co-ordinator Fiona Morris agreed there needed to be a balance.
"Our organisation's role is not really in the political sphere," she said.
"Our role is to help landholders manage their land sustainably.
"These laws seem to be about limiting land management, even good regenerative sustainable management, so I guess it's tarring the majority who are doing the right thing, with the same brush as that minority doing the wrong thing.
Mrs Morris said most landholders had a vested interest in managing the sustainability of their land.
"That's why there is so much opposition to these laws," she said.
"Landowners need to be supported with good land management practices, information and access to advice."