The Queensland Government’s Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (VMROLA) was rejected by Parliament last night. The Bill was introduced to Parliament on 17 March 2016, and was referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee.
The Bill sought to reinstate some significant aspects of the vegetation management framework in place prior to the commencement of the Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 and the Vegetation Framework Management Amendment Act 2013. The Bill proposed to:
- remove high value agriculture and irrigated high value agriculture from the purposes for which a vegetation clearing application can be assessed; and
- reinstate the ‘reverse onus of proof’, i.e. the requirement for the occupier of land in proceedings in relation to a vegetation clearing offence to prove that it did not undertake the vegetation clearing; and
- amend the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (Qld) to remove the references to ‘significant’ residual impacts, so that the Act provides for environmental offsets to counterbalance ‘residual impacts’ from particular activities on prescribed environmental matters.
A petition that only raised 4310 signatures across Queensland was launched by Grant Maudsley, provided a platform for Queenslanders to express their opposition and send a message to the Palaszczuk Government about the new vegetation management laws. Farmers and developers raised concerns about a number of aspects of this Bill, and potential impacts on the rights of landholders and the opportunity to stimulate the economic development and the growth of jobs in rural and regional Queensland.
Yesterday, Queensland MP Billy Gordon released a statement, saying the laws don’t “strike the necessary balance between indigenous economic development, protecting the environment and supporting our farmers”. Mr Gordon had been under intense pressure to block the laws by agricultural and Indigenous groups in his vast far north Queensland electorate.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad is still committed to undertake a Cape York Development and Sustainability Review and appoint a Cape York Development and Sustainability Steering group, consisting of Indigenous leaders, non-government organisations and government agencies.