5 Oct 2017
NEW DRAMATIC ESCALATION IN TREE CLEARING IN QUEENSLAND SHOWS WHY STRONGER LAWS MUST BE PASSED
- New data shows disastrous increase in deforestation / tree clearing rates, resulting in millions of native animals including our iconic koala being killed and injured
- Newman LNP Government’s gutting of tree laws 4 years ago a critical factor
- Campaign for stronger laws against tree clearing to be feature of the state election
The latest Queensland ‘Statewide Landcover and Tree Survey’ (SLATS) has just been released by the State government, indicating that 395,000 hectares of land was cleared in Queensland in the last twelve months for which we have data. This report shows a further dramatic rise in clearing of forests, woodlands and trees in Queensland between 2015-2016. Clearing has risen by another 33% over the previous year, and the published data are still at least one year behind real time suggesting things could be far worse still today.
Organisations including WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Queensland Conservation Council have responded with a renewed call for stronger laws to save Queensland’s unique wildlife - before it’s too late
“Queensland is in the midst of a hidden environmental crisis from deforestation,” said Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman.
“These new figures are shocking, putting Queensland up there with the world’s worst offenders for forest destruction. More than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have been razed since our laws were weakened: that’s an area the size of the Gabba bulldozed every three minutes for the last 4 years.”
Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig said: “Queensland’s tree clearing crisis just got a whole load worse. This is yet another reminder of the scale of the problem we have with land clearing in this state, and why we must make our land clearing laws much better and more effective in protecting native wildlife."
“The current Parliament has frustrated attempts to do this, and in the meantime ever larger areas of Queensland are being destroyed by the bulldozers."
“The next Queensland Government needs to commit to strengthening laws on tree-clearing, protect wildlife and bushland and ensure a future for species such as the endangered koala. We will be looking closely at the environmental policies of the parties and candidates contesting the next election and assessing those policies in terms of capacity to practically reduce the level of land clearing in Queensland, and otherwise protect natural habitats and wildlife.”
WWF-Australia Protected Areas and Conservation Science Manager Dr Martin Taylor said: “Excessive tree clearing destroys our forests and bushland, kills and injures millions of native animals, including the endangered koala, and threatens the Great Barrier Reef through muddy runoff. We need stronger laws to protect our landscapes and forests, our food and water supplies, our soils and climate. If we lose these animals, we can’t get them back. They’re gone forever."
“We already know that at least 84,000 ha of critical Queensland habitat for koalas was cleared in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years. With the total area bulldozed leaping up by 33% statewide we expect even more koala habitat has been destroyed in the period of this new report. That means hundreds of koalas killed, injured and homeless. Losing Queensland's faunal emblem would be a tragedy.”
Vanda Grabowski from Koala Action Inc said: “We see the horrible consequences of clearing. I’ve raised over 50 rescued koalas personally, many of whom come back to me dead, sometimes within months, because they don’t have enough habitat left in which to survive after the area has been cleared. I see the direct results of deforestation and it breaks my heart. All the time I put in is wiped out by human interference. It’s heartbreaking especially when you know the government could easily stop this happening.”
Environmental Defenders Office Qld law reform solicitor Revel Pointon said: “In the meantime, we need the government to act right now to protect our wildlife, avoid dangerous climate change and meet our Reef 2050 commitments."
“Firstly, the government needs to get rid of the worst of the previous government’s unsustainable self-assessable codes, such as the thinning code, which allows the majority of broadscale clearing now allowed in Queensland without assessment. Secondly, the government could be declaring restrictions on clearing over particularly sensitive areas, like reef catchments, that require immediate protection from their current exposure under the significantly weakened clearing laws.”
The alliance comprises the Queensland Conservation Council, WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Queensland, the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, Gecko Environment Council, Mackay Conservation Group, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), the Queensland Koala Crusaders, and Koala Action Inc. Together these groups represent tens of thousands of Queenslanders.
The alliance is calling on all political parties to back the push for stronger tree-clearing laws to better protect remnant and other high conservation value woodlands and habitats, and to use a range of means to strengthen legal protections, remove risky self-assessments, support better enforcement, clearing monitoring and reporting.
For further comment contact:
Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager: Gemma Plesman on 0423 044 431
Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator: Dr Tim Seelig on 0439 201 183
WWF-Australia media contact, Senior Media Officer: Mark Symons on 0400 985 571