Clearing of Native Vegetation

For some time, we have been concerned about loss of native vegetation in sensitive areas - particularly near watercourses and hanging swamps. This is especially a problem on private land where new houses are being built.
A particularly blatant land clearing in Katoomba recently brought matters to a head, resulting in vigorous protest from the Society, the local Landcare Group and residents. Council had approved the construction of a house on a block which contained a hanging swamp and stipulated that this portion of the block remain undisturbed. The owner proceeded to systematically remove 99% of the native vegetation, including 600 sq metres of hanging swamp.
We believe that Council's actions to protect this sensitive area have been inadequate.
The Mayor, Jim Angel, took the initiative to call a meeting between the Society and Council to look at ways of improving native vegetation protection in the future. Four members from the Society and the Landcare Group met with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Ward 1 Councillors and senior Council staff on January 17.
Commitments were made by Council to pursue a number of the ideas. A Vegetation Protection Order is to be developed, which would protect all vegetation not just trees. The creation of a position for an environmental scientist who would review development applications and ways to provide better information to landowners are being considered.
While these steps will help avoid these disasters in future, we believe they won't work on their own. Council must be more vigorous in enforcing its environmental standards.
Also, Council's effectiveness in protecting threatened species and watercourses was of real concern. We are taking these matters up with the relevant Government Departments, to seek their views on whether Council has fulfilled its legal obligations.
The meeting was very constructive with a number of ideas which the Society has been pursuing for many years being discussed seriously. The Mayor agreed that the meeting reconvene before end April, so that we could be brought up to date with Council's actions.
Lyndal Sullivan

Queensland Clearing Controls at Risk

Indiscriminate clearing for agriculture in Queensland continues to be Australia's most urgent and massive environmental issue.
Clearing controls were put through the Queensland's state parliament late last year, thanks in part to pressure from people writing in from around the country. Although minimalist, providing b protection for only existing threatened ecosystems, they can be described as a "good start".
However, while the legislation has gone through parliament the controls have not yet been 'proclaimed' as needed for them to become law. Local reports indicate that massive panic clearing continued during this hiatus, and is continuing as you read this.
The Qld government is seeking significant funds from the Federal Government to assist with money for incentives and compensation moneys for landowners to help implement the laws. Over the last several weeks there has been a stand-off between (Labor) Premier Beattie and Federal (Liberal) Environment Minister Senator Hill. The Premier said he wouldn't implement the legislation without significant federal money. The Senator has said it is a state problem - despite writing to the Premier several months ago urging him to put in ber clearing controls. Now the Federal Agriculture Minister, (National Party) Mr. Truss has entered the debate describing the controls themselves as unreasonable on farmers. Various farmers groups in Qld are organising a very aggressive campaign attacking the controls.
The net result of this set of party politics is that the Queensland Government is now threatening to not proclaim the legislation at all, due to lack of funding. The Qld Premier is meeting the Prime Minister shortly and will discuss the issue of funding.
Given the national scale of the clearing in Queensland, and the biodiversity, greenhouse, land degradation and salinity consequences of continued broad scale clearing the conservation groups working on the issue believe it is reasonable and appropriate for the federal government to assist with significant funding.
Messages to the Prime Minister (Parliament House, Canberra 2601) would be greatly appreciated at the moment pointing out to him the need to provide some funds to assist Queensland with implementing effective clearing controls - just a short message urging him to assist because of the national importance that clearing be controlled in Queensland. Dr. Barry Traill, Australian Woodlands Conservancy, RMB 1207 Chiltern 3683, ph/fax: 0357 261885, email: woodland@albury.net.au