Government 'scare-mongers' about land clearing for quick media hit

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Government 'scare-mongers' about land clearing for quick media hit
Friday, 21 Dec 2018

AgForce has criticised the State Government for using 'selective science' in an attempt to convince the community that its heavy-handed vegetation management laws are necessary.

The Government has creatively used data from the annual State Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report to claim that its Vegetation Management Act (VMA) was required to prevent land clearing for agriculture.

AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said the Government had misused the report to 'scare-monger' about land clearing and justify the introduction of its confusing and counter-productive laws.

The laws have been widely criticised in recent weeks for contributing to the ferocity of last month's devastating bushfires by not allowing producers to manage fuel loads on their properties or clear adequate fire breaks.

"The Government's heavily edited version of the SLATS report doesn't mention that most clearing is done to provide feed to prevent livestock from starving during drought and to maintain land, including controlling weeds and invasive species that compete with native vegetation," Mrs Somerset said.

"The four-page summary cherry-picked by the Government from the full 100-page document only tells half the story.

"The community needs and deserves to see the entire report to understand vegetation clearing, however the Government has refused to release it.

"For example, the 'football fields' of cleared land quoted in their media release represents just 0.2% of total Queensland land area.

"It also doesn't mention that around 40% of this area has already been cleared and is simply being maintained.

"And it only measures how much land has been cleared, not how much vegetation has grown over the same period.

"The Government's misuse of the report to achieve a quick media hit before Christmas distorts the picture.

"The fact is that the VMA makes it harder for producers to prevent and contain fires on their properties, with subsequent loss of livestock, wildlife and habitat, and for pastoralists to manage vegetation to provide sustainable fodder for their animals, especially during drought."

Mrs Somerset said AgForce had pushed for the Government's new-found commitment to "enhancing the scope of SLATS and vegetation information to support evidence-based decision-making".

"We have been arguing for years that Government scientists should have the resources they need to examine how much vegetation is growing in Queensland not just how much is being cleared," she said.

"This information has again not been included in the summary report.

"AgForce has always said we are willing to engage in a scientific, evidence-based approach to vegetation management that examines all the facts, including how much vegetation has regrown and why vegetation was being managed, not just how much has been cleared.

"You can't get the best environmental and agricultural production outcomes when decisions are made on flawed or incomplete data.

"We implore the Government to let the science tell the whole story and work with those most affected by these laws to come up with a long-lasting solution."

Media Contact: David Vogler  0418 733 102

Government 'scare-mongers' about land clearing for quick media hit

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