CLEAR FELLED: Reports of land clearing rising in Queensland over recent years has got landholders and conservationists butting heads with policy makers over the growing tensions surrounding the issue.
CLEAR FELLED: Reports of land clearing rising in Queensland over recent years has got landholders and conservationists butting heads with policy makers over the growing tensions surrounding the issue. Contributed

Felled: A growing tension between farmers and conservationists

OVER 1200 hectares of vegetation is cleared around Gympie each year and tension is growing among stakeholders.

"The DNRM assesses land clearing and monitors landholder compliance with vegetation management laws using a range of measures, including audits and information provided by members of the community,” the spokesman said.

"Satellite imagery via the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) and the Early Detection System (EDS) is also used.

"The latest SLATS report show Gympie Regional Council area had a clearing rate of 1214 hectares per year. The majority of this clearing was for forestry activities.”

LIKE TO KEEP UP TO DATE WITH RURAL NEWS? FOLLOW THE TOPIC HERE

University of Queensland School of Earth and Environmental Sciences professor Clive McAlpine grew up in Gympie.

He said deforestation has increased since the Campbell Newman LNP State Government eased restrictions on land clearing in 2013. A year later, land clearing has more than doubled and the Palaszczuk government has so far failed to tighten the laws.

"Deforestation rates have gone up since 2012-13, before it was going down, it was below 100,000 hectares per year,” Prof McAlpine said.

"It changed a lot with what farmers could do with vegetation and it's now getting towards 300,000 hectares.”

Prof McAlpine said people are taking advantage of relaxed laws.

"It happened back in 2001 when there was panic clearing during the (Peter) Beattie government's push to restrict clearing.

"It seems to be in Queensland, when the vegetation regulation is relaxed, vegetation clearing will accelerate. Given our example, we are one of the highest land-clearing regions in the world.

"There's a tension in Queensland between agricultural development and conservation. It's an age-old tension which goes back to Bjelke-Petersen.”

Prof McAlpine said if land is cleared, farmers have to look at whether the land is productive.

"Our research shows clearing can create reduced rainfall by 20-30 per cent and increase temperature by 2-3 degrees.

"When you clear the land, the land becomes hotter and drier. It means they won't get the rainfall or productivity out of the pastures they are hoping for.

"A lot of alarm bells are going to start going off.”

A spokesman for AgForce, an agriculture lobby group, said the term deforestation is misleading.

"The debate actually relates to how farmers manage vegetation on their properties, and has nothing to do with state forests.

"Further, while you will see green groups talk about hundreds of thousands of hectares being cleared, it's actually less than 0.1 per cent of the woody remnant vegetation in Queensland is being cleared. And vegetation grows back.”

Member for Gympie Tony Perrett said conservationists are dishonest.

"Data in the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) is being manipulated by these groups to trash the reputation of farmers.

"As a rural landholder I know farmers are the best custodians of the land as they live, breathe and work in the environment every day.”