More than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been cleared since the Newman LNP Government let loose the bulldozers on Queensland.
In response, organisations including Mackay Conservation Group, WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Queensland Conservation Council have launched an alliance to end land clearing in the state.
“Queensland is in the midst of an environmental crisis from land clearing,” said Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman.
“The Newman Government gutted land-clearing laws four years ago today but the explosion in land clearing had started beforehand when the LNP announced it would stop enforcing the laws.
“More than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been razed since the Newman LNP let loose the bulldozers on Queensland. Since 2013 nearly 300,000 hectares has been cleared in Queensland every year we have data; an area the size of the Gabba is bulldozed every three minutes.”
Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig said: “This is one million very good reasons to make our land clearing laws much better and more effective in protecting native wildlife.
“Today we are launching an alliance of organisations from across the state united in their efforts to stop this terrible destruction.
“Parliament needs to be given another opportunity to end Campbell Newman’s destructive legacy on land clearing. By strengthening tree clearing laws, we can protect wildlife and bushland and ensure a future for species such as the endangered koala.”
WWF-Australia Protected Areas and Conservation Science Manager Dr Martin Taylor said: “Land clearing destroys our forests and bushland, kills and injures millions of native animals, including the endangered koala, and threatens the Great Barrier Reef through muddy runoff. We need stronger laws to protect our landscapes and forests, our food and water supplies, our soils and climate.
“One million hectares is an area more than four times the size of the Australian Capital Territory. If you lined up more than 1200 bulldozers side by side and cleared a path from Brisbane to Cairns that’s the area that has been and is being bulldozed since the LNP gutted the protections against runaway bulldozing of habitat.
“WWF-Australia estimates more than 80,000ha of koala habitat was bulldozed in Queensland from 2013 to 2015, leaving hundreds of koalas killed, injured and homeless.”
Vanda Grabowski from Koala Action Inc said: “We see the horrible consequences of clearing. I’ve raised over 50 rescued koalas personally, many of whom come back to me dead, sometimes within months, because they don’t have enough habitat left in which to survive after the area has been cleared. I see the direct results of deforestation and it breaks my heart. All the time I put in is wiped out by human interference. It’s heartbreaking especially when you know the government could easily stop this happening.”
The Wilderness Society’s Gemma Plesman said: “Land clearing and deforestation also has a major impact on climate change. Cleared trees can no longer suck carbon pollution out of the air and they also release carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as they are burnt or rot. Ending land clearing would be a fast, cheap and effective way to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
The alliance is calling on all political parties to back the push for stronger land-clearing laws to better protect remnant and other high conservation value woodlands and habitats, and to use a range of means to strengthen legal protections, remove risky self-assessments, support better clearing monitoring and reporting.
Environmental Defenders Office Qld law reform solicitor Revel Pointon said: “In the meantime, we need the government to act right now to protect our wildlife, avoid dangerous climate change and meet our Reef 2050 commitments. Firstly, the government needs to get rid of the worst of the previous government’s unsustainable self-assessable codes, such as the thinning code, which allows the majority of broadscale clearing now allowed in Queensland without assessment.
“Secondly, the government could be declaring restrictions on clearing over particularly sensitive areas, like reef catchments, that require immediate protection from their current exposure under the significantly weakened clearing laws.”
The alliance comprises the Queensland Conservation Council, WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Queensland, the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, Gecko Environment Council, Mackay Conservation Group, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, the Queensland Koala Crusaders, Koala Action Inc. Together these groups represent tens of thousands of Queenslanders.