The Latest on Queensland’s Election – November 2017

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True to their word both major political parties have provided statements on their intentions with regards to the environment. Wildlife Queensland appreciates the time and effort taken in communicating with our Society so that members and supporters can be better informed.

While Wildlife Queensland is apolitical the purpose of our existence is the conservation and protection of our wildlife and for that we make no apology. However, in fairness to both Labor and the LNP, the parties’ statements will be reproduced below as received, even though we may be totally opposed to some of the policy directions presented.

In alphabetical order of the major parties’ names, here are the statements provided: by Dr Steven Miles MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and The Great Barrier Reef on behalf of Labor, will precede that provided by Dr Christian Rowan, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Conservation on behalf of the LNP:

Letter from Dr Steven Miles MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and The Great Barrier Reef, Labor:

“The Palaszczuk Government has a strong record on environmental protection over this term of government and will build on that record if we are re-elected.

We are committed to a Queensland that protects our wildlife habitat, our climate and our beautiful reef. Right now land clearing is the greatest threat to those things in Queensland.

After three short years of LNP government, tree clearing rates in Queensland have again reached unsustainable levels.

The Palaszczuk Government made a concerted effort to arrest unsustainable clearing rates by introducing strong, sensible laws to the Parliament in 2016. These laws were blocked by an alliance of the LNP and crossbenchers.

A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will once again drive down tree clearing rates by legislating to end broad scale clearing of remnant vegetation. We will also establish a $500 million Land Restoration Fund to facilitate a pipeline of Queensland based carbon offset projects which also pursue environmental and economic co-benefits.

Our policy ‘Saving Habitat, Protecting Wildlife and Restoring Land’ has all the details:

We will also implement the ban on supply of single use plastic bags and container refund scheme that passed through Parliament this year. From 1 July 2018, these historic reforms will become reality in Queensland and our marine and terrestrial wildlife will all be better off.

I’m also proud of what we have achieved this term for one of our state’s most magical natural assets, Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). We made a commitment at the last election to end sand mining on Minjerribah by 2019 and in May 2016 we delivered on this commitment through amendments to the North Stradbroke Island Sustainability Act 2011. Since this time we have been working with the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) on the timing of Sibelco’s exit to ensure rehabilitation of the land can occur as soon as possible.

The Palaszczuk Government has also committed $28 million to support Minjerribah to transition to a more sustainable economy. A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will continue to deliver projects under the North Stradbroke Island Economic Transition Strategy.

In order to further progress the projects identified Economic Transition Strategy the Palaszczuk government recently decided to allocate a further $11 million. This will help to improve economic and employment opportunities for Minjerribah. A further $1.35 million has been allocated as an annual cost to manage the expanded national park estate on the Island.

If re-elected, the Palaszczuk Government will release and implement our Protected Area Strategy, which will establish a world-leading protected area system that effectively conserves the State’s unique natural assets for the benefit of all Queenslanders.

The strategy will set the direction for the management and growth of Queensland’s protected area estate for the next ten years, better connecting the community with their protected areas as well as sustainably growing and managing our existing protected area estate.

The strategy will also support private protected area uptake and management by continuing and expanding the NatureAssist toolkit to support land owners in their management of nature refuges.

And we will continue with our legislation to create special wildlife reserves – a new form of nature refuge that will allow land holders to voluntarily conserve their land with the same level of protection as national parks.

In this election the Palaszczuk Government is the only choice if we are to maintain and enhance protections for our wildlife, climate and Great Barrier Reef. Other alternatives are simply not viable or a potential disaster for the environment – it’s that simple.

I urge you to communicate this message to your members and supporters. I hope to keep working with you in the future to implement our plan to end deforestation.”

Letter from Dr Christian Rowan, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Conservation, LNP:

“Thank you for your emails seeking details of LNP policies relating to my areas of responsibility as Shadow Minister for the Environment and Conservation.

Please be assured the LNP takes environment protection seriously and is very conscious of the need to protect high conservation value forest areas and other landscapes. As you know, the LNP believes in a balanced approach that allows for sensible development in urban and agricultural areas and of minerals and resources to deliver the food and fibre, water and energy our community needs and expects.

The LNP is committed to retaining its vegetation management framework which allows landholders and farmers to properly manage their properties. We do not accept that the satellite Statewide Land Cover and Tree Studies (SLATS) prove rates of clearing are out of control. We have seen the Palaszczuk Labor Government continue with its attempts to manipulate the SLATS figures for its own purposes. Our position is the SLATS figures ignore re-growth management and selective thinning in the mulga lands to feed starving livestock accounts for much of this area. The reality is, the latest SLATS report shows 0.23 per cent of Queensland’s total area was cleared in 2015-16 and some two-thirds of that was managing re-growth.

The previous LNP Government’s 2013 vegetation management reforms were sensible and balanced. All remnant vegetation in Queensland remains protected under the framework put in place by the LNP. Remnant vegetation can only be managed under an exemption (such as the construction of a house or shed, or public infrastructure), for routine management practices under a self-assessable code, or if an applicant has secured a high value agriculture permit, for which there is a robust assessment process.

Under the framework put in place by the LNP, non-remnant, or regrowth vegetation, can be managed on freehold land in accordance with the land management practices of the property owner, providing there are no other legislative instruments in force, such as mapping layers established by the Nature Conservation Act. The management of re-growth vegetation on leasehold land remains regulated and can only be managed under an exemption, a self-assessable code, or if a high value agriculture permit is in place.

It is inaccurate and inappropriate to describe the management of vegetation under self-assessable codes (SAC’s) as clearing. Codes for thinning require a number of stems-per-hectare to remain in place on land managed under the code and these are consistent with the prevailing vegetation type in the relevant bioregion. Fodder harvesting codes are used in drought conditions to feed stock only. Landholders using any of the established SAC’s are required to notify the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

Strong monitoring and compliance of vegetation management activities continued throughout the duration of the previous LNP Government and a future LNP Government will continue to apply the law fairly and consistently. The LNP supports the use of Penalty Infringement Notices and Restoration Orders in appropriate circumstances, as an alternative to expensive prosecution processes through the courts, but the LNP expects all Queenslanders to abide by the law and that includes the Vegetation Management Act.

The LNP agrees that Property Maps of Assessable Vegetation, or PMAV’s, are an important document, designed to provide certainty and security to landholders in terms of vegetation categories on their properties. Essential Habitat mapping is established under the Nature Conservation Act, not the Vegetation Management Act. It relates to areas of identified habitat for native fauna and does not relate to vegetation categories. As such, essential habitat mapping should be separate and distinct from PMAV’s.

Queensland’s State Landcover and Tree Survey (SLATS) is an important tool for monitoring change in land use across Queensland. The LNP agrees that it should continue to be well-resourced to provide accurate information about land use change across the state. It is a crying shame that green activist groups routinely misrepresent the data presented in the SLATS report to attack landholders, instead of putting an effort into understanding what land use change has occurred, where and for what purpose.

While Labor loves to scaremonger about the health of the Great Barrier Reef and link tree-clearing and farm run-off to the reef’s health, the truth is big gains have been made by farmers in adopting Best Management Practices and sediment and nutrient run-off onto the reef has been greatly reduced – through well-supported BMP programs in cane and grazing industries.

The LNP is committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef. In Government, led by science, we took strong action, more than any previous government, to address concerns about reef decline. We got the balance right and had strict controls on port developments, as recommended by UNESCO, and introduced tougher reef protection penalties.

In Government, the LNP committed to investing $35 million a year to improve water quality and help farmers adopt reef-friendly practices through BMP (best management practices) programs to cut fertiliser/chemical/sediment run-off from farms. Independent reports showed water quality on the Great Barrier Reef improved under the LNP.

We’re committed to working with the Federal Coalition Government and its Reef 2050 Plan which guides protection and management of the reef for the next 35 years. An LNP Government will maintain all current allocated State funding for reef protection. We’ll build an alliance to protect the Reef for future generations, and we’ll meet all our obligations under the Reef 2050 (Protection) Plan.

A Tim Nicholls-led LNP Government will build an Alliance to protect the Great Barrier Reef and secure its future.  We will maintain and fully-fund existing programs.  Protecting the reef is too important to leave to one organisation or local group. The LNP’s ‘Great Barrier Reef Alliance’ will work closely with the Federal Government, the Independent Expert Panel and Reef 2050 Advisory Committee and other key stakeholders to deliver real, independently measurable outcomes.

We’ll again partner with the Federal Government to continue the important task of improving reef water quality. As shown by the Federal Report Card (2014) pesticide load is down 28%, sediment load down 11% and nitrogen down 10% on 2009 baseline levels. The Report Card also showed a 16% reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen, the key pollutant linked to Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks.

The LNP is fully committed to working with all stakeholders to better protect vulnerable and endangered GBR species, including dugongs and turtles and we will work with indigenous groups to better manage and protect these iconic species.

We note the 11th hour election announcement by Labor of its half-billion dollar fund for land restoration. We also note farm and landholder stakeholder groups have stated that they not been involved in the development of the plan and therefore have seen no details of what can only be described as an unfunded, election stunt. This sort of thing is demeaning of Queensland farmers and landholders and has received the skeptical response it deserves.

Compare this nonsense with the LNP’s fully-costed $6 million farm and private forestry package prepared with input from key stakeholder groups. This is a sensible package that will support development of farm forestry and re-forestation projects to provide longer-term income streams for farmers, particularly in co-grazing to further help reduce nutrient and sediment run-off.

The LNP does not try to treat stakeholders and voters as mugs. We believe in delivering fully-costed policies that are practical, have every chance of success, and importantly have the support of the very people who will use the programs.

In closing, we have been travelling the state and listening to the concerns of Queenslanders. They want better government – not more government. It’s our commitment to be a common sense government that listens, plans and acts to Build a Better Queensland.

I hope the above LNP policies help to ease your concerns about the future of our environment and wildlife. Please feel free to share this response directly with your members, or in any regular publication.”

Wildlife Queensland’s comment:

Until concern for the environment and its wildlife is again one of the major concerns of the broader community nothing much will change. The one positive is that both major parties are prepared to meet with Wildlife Queensland and listen to our concerns, and while that happens there is hope. Let your member elected in 2017 know about your concerns for the environment, and if sufficient people do that, our wildlife will undoubtedly benefit.

Authorised by Des Boyland, Secretary, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, 30 Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill. Queensland 4101.

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