September 13, 2019
AgForce says a decision by the High Court this week has made vegetation management for Queensland primary producers even more confusing, exposing them to fines of up to $600,000 per breach.
The High Court decision upheld the power of councils to control vegetation management on “Category X” land – which AgForce says makes up about 20 per cent of Queensland – where there is a local planning scheme in place.
The decision endorsed a similar ruling by the Queensland Court of Appeal in May, effectively adding another layer of regulation.
Thinning or clearing of any vegetation on “Category X” land, previously exempt under the State’s Vegetation Management Act, could now require planning approval from the local council – a process that could take weeks .
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the ruling had made effective, legally compliant landscape management virtually impossible for most producers.
“Landholders now have to know, understand and comply with legislation and regulations by all three levels of government, much of which is contradictory,” he said.
“This is a disastrous outcome for producers at a time when many need to urgently clear firebreaks ahead of a predicted brutal fire season, control weeds and invasive plants, and use vegetation as fodder for cattle starving due to the record drought.
“Every week we hear of producers who are fined for unknowingly breaching various State Government vegetation management regulations simply because the legislation is both confusing and ever-changing.
“Between the Vegetation Management Act, protected plants trigger mapping and now local planning schemes, farmers simply don’t know what they can and can’t do on their properties.
“Ironically, this decision will ultimately harm the environment by adding to the complexity of rules already faced by farmers.”