The rate of tree clearing in Queensland has skyrocketed, reaching an alarming rate of 395,000 hectares in 2015-16, according to the annual Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) released yesterday (Thursday 5 October).
The annual deforestation report also showed the rate of tree-clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchments had soared by almost 50 per cent since 2012-2013.
Member for Barron River Craig Crawford said this rate of land clearing is driving our native wildlife to extinction, risking the tens of thousands of jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef, and driving up Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Government promised at the 2015 State election to reinstate the vegetation management legislation that existed prior to the Newman-Nicholls LNP Government. The LNP blocked our legislation and excessive tree clearing has continued to increase dramatically,” Mr Crawford said.
“Excessive land clearing in Queensland is at rate of 1000 football fields every day.
“Clearing in Great Barrier Reef catchments has contributed to sediment pollution in the reef and undermined the efforts of farmers working hard to cut this runoff.”
Mr Crawford said Labor will take new tree clearing laws to the next election after the LNP defeated previous attempts to halt excessive clearing.
“This shocking escalation in clearing underlines the need to re-elect the Palaszczuk Government with a working majority,” Mr Crawford said.
“The rate of clearing has quadrupled since Tim Nicholls and the LNP tore up Labor’s laws.
“Labor fought with everything we had to reintroduce sensible laws, but Tim Nicholls and the LNP blocked us”.
Mr Crawford said that more than a third, 138,000 hectares, of clearing was remnant forest, with almost half in Great Barrier Reef catchments.
“That remnant forest is habitat for our native wildlife that hasn’t been cleared before,” Mr Crawford said.
“According to Scientific Review of Impacts of Land Clearing in Queensland released earlier this year, land clearing has been directly responsible for two plant species becoming extinct in the wild, and has been identified as a threatening process for many of the 739 threatened flora species and 210 threatened fauna species in Queensland.”
“A key commitment of the Reef 2050 Plan is to reduce land clearing. Both the State and Federal Governments committed to this plan and it’s what has stopped UNESCO putting the reef on the ‘in danger’ list. The Reef’s World Heritage Status is vital for the industry that relies on it and the 64,000 jobs it supports,” Mr Crawford said.
“This rate of land clearing is and Australia’s commitment to the Paris Accord to Climate Change, committed to by Tony Abbott and maintained by his successor Malcolm Turnbull.
“Some 45 million tonnes of emissions is generated in Queensland alone by land clearing. That more than wipes out the Federal Government’s $1.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.”
Mr Crawford said thanks to Tim Nicholls and the LNP, Queensland was now responsible for 90 per cent of Australia’s emissions from land use, contributing to climate change and the coral bleaching threatening the Great Barrier Reef.
“Labor fought with everything we had to reintroduce sensible laws, but Tim Nicholls and the LNP blocked us,” Mr Crawford said.
“Malcolm Turnbull better tell his Queensland colleagues to pull their heads in because without the return of sensible tree clearing laws he won’t meet the emissions targets he signed up to in Paris.
“Only a Labor-majority Government can deliver real, balanced environmental protections. A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will introduce legislation to protect remnant and high conservation value non-remnant vegetation.
“We are committed to driving down clearing rates to protect Queensland’s iconic wildlife, climate and Great Barrier Reef.”
Mr Crawford said Labor’s vegetation management laws will continue to provide flexibility to landholders in drought by recognising fodder harvesting as a key drought saving measure and would retain self-assessable codes as long as they provide appropriate protection.
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