Landholders accused of 'panic clearing' bushland

BUSHLAND near Bundaberg, Mackay, Toowoomba and Maryborough are among places marked on a WWF tree-clearing "map of shame".

The conservation group's report by Dr Martin Taylor suggests landholders are "panic clearing" land before stronger legislation to tackle deforestation can be implemented.

The new Labor government is yet to tighten legislation to tackle deforestation after the former LNP government made it easier for farmers to clear land for certain agricultural projects.

The report found land clearing has more than tripled from about 78,000ha a year in 2009-10 to about 278,000ha in 2013-14.

Around Bundaberg three land clearing approvals were granted after February this year and one unexplained clearing was between 2012 and 2014.

The map marked unexplained clearings near Mackay, north of Toowoomba and west of Maryborough between 2014 and 2015.

"Much of the clearing is in reef catchments," Dr Taylor said.

"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."

He stated in the report it was highly likely land clearing in the first year of the Palaszczuk government would exceed the already high levels of 2013-14 because of panic clearing unless the government acted promptly to prevent it.

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham recently announced he was working on an independently chaired vegetation roundtable comprising representatives of agricultural industries, conservation and indigenous groups.

He also briefly spoke in parliament about a new vegetation monitoring system intended to make it easier for farmers, government and third parties to prevent unauthorised clearing.

The new system, which will use satellite images to spot changes in land, is soon to be trialled with industry stakeholders.

Dr Lynham said his department would also review the Vegetation Management Act that the LNP government was accused of watering down.

- APN NEWSDESK


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